Entheogens

Entheogens aren’t for everyone, especially not as a dedicated path. Even though I think everyone can potentially benefit from them I usually try to dissuade folks because if you’ve got unresolved shit it’s gonna get brought up to the surface and frankly a lot of folks aren’t prepared for dealing with that so directly – which is where bad trips often come from.

Of course, that’s when an experienced guide can be helpful – walking you through it when it gets intense and helping to ease the landing when you come back down. More than that, the guide has built up a relationship with the spirit in the plant so can usually talk to it and help negotiate the terms of the trip. Consequently I’m not as experienced as a lot of psychonauts since I’ve worked on building up that kind of relationship with my plant-allies.

I work fairly closely with tobacco, marijuana, amanita muscaria, psilocybin and to a much lesser extent salvia divinorum. Beyond that I’ve tried nymphaia cirulea, kinnikinnick, a couple other mushrooms and herbal mixtures, LSD and one of those alphabet soup designer chemical compounds.

I won’t try anything harder or that isn’t a psychoactive and the experience with the alphabet soup swore me off all but the natural stuff. And even there I tend to stick to traditionally Euroasian substances – there’s a couple from Mexico and South America I’d like to try but 1) you’re dealing with a very different type of spirit and 2) most of the experiences begin with massive vomiting and/or explosive diarrhea and there’s a limit to how much I’m going to get out of a trip while hunched over a toilet, ya know?

I cannot stress these three words enough: set and setting. Set and setting. Set and setting.

They’re everything. Basically what it means is before you go into any potentially intense experience – be it drugs, ritual, art or whathaveyou – pay attention to your surroundings and your mental state. This includes things like who’s around you, your sensorium (visuals, tactile, auditory, even scents) and where your head is at. Are you calm, reverent, focused and got all of your shit more or less under control? (And know what areas you don’t.) Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish and hope to get out of the experience (while remaining flexible and open to other things coming up) before going in? Do you have any ritual accoutrements or objects of entertainment easily accessible so you have to try and search for them while altered? Paying attention to this stuff ahead of time contributes hugely to the success or failure of any undertaking.

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The mortal ally

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The story says that the giants found Bacchus inebriated. After they tore him to pieces limb by limb, they buried the bits, and a little while later he arose alive and whole. We read that the disciples of Orpheus interpreted this fiction philosophically and that they represent this story in his sacred rites. (The Third Vatican Mythographer 12.5)

Now there was an oracle among the gods that they themselves would not be able to defeat the giants in battle but would finish them off only with the help of some mortal ally. When Ge learned of this, she sought a drug that would prevent their destruction even by mortal hands. But Zeus barred the appearance of Eos, Selene, and Helios, and chopped up the drug himself before Ge could find it. (Apollodoros, Bibliotheca 1.35)

The plant ‘moly’ of which Homer speaks has a white flower. It was grown from the blood of the giant killed on the isle of Kirke by Helios. The combat was hard (malos) from which the plant acquired its name. (Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 4 as preserved in Photios’ Myriobiblon 190)

 

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If you’re in the area

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The next public ritual that House Sankofa and the thiasos of the Starry Bull are jointly putting on is the Praxidikaia on Saturday, September 20th. Sacrifices will be made on behalf of the ancestors as well as the Erinyes and underworld powers.

… prayers and sacrifices appease the souls, and the enchanting song of the magician is able to remove the daimones when they impede. Impeding daimones are revenging souls. This is why the magicians perform the sacrifice as if they were paying a penalty. On the offerings they pour water and milk, from which they make the libations, too. They sacrifice innumerable and many-knobbed cakes, because the souls, too, are innumerable. (Derveni Papyrus col. 6.1-11)

If you’d like to attend contact me or Galina and we’ll provide you with all of the necessary information. Alternately I want to make this a truly communal affair so if you’ve got prayers to the ancestors or petitions to the chthonioi you’d like shared send them to me before that date.

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Honey for the Mistress of the Labyrinth

As part of my observance of the Pannychis of Ariadne this weekend (we’ve got about eight people coming up and it’s going to be totally badass with fire and temple snakes and the whole shebang) I plan on doing some divination. So if you’ve got some questions you’d like answered send me an e-mail before 6:00pm EST on Saturday and we’ll see what comes through.

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Also, I’ll be adding the rest of the material that’s come in for the Boukoleon on Monday so if you’ve got shrine pics, poetry or other stuff you’d like to contribute please get it to me by then.

I’d particularly like to have the communal hymn for Melinoë done by September 9th so that it can be formally read as part of the thiasos’ celebration of her birthday.

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But there’s no reason for this to turn into some kind of petty vendetta

I was really touched by something I read this morning about the always classy Classicist Mary Beard:

Speaking in an interview with the New Yorker magazine, Beard revealed the pair had remained in touch after he took her to lunch to apologise for sending her a tweet that read: “You filthy old slut” followed by a derogatory comment about her genitalia. Beard retweeted it to her 47,000 followers to out her abuser, but said she had now taken to writing job recommendations for Rawlings so he didn’t suffer in the long term for “one moment of idiocy”. “He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that is what comes up,” she said. “And although he was a very silly, injudicious, and at that moment not very pleasant young guy, I don’t actually think one tweet should ruin your job prospects.”

Naturally this got me thinking about Brandie Elaine who has been attacking me and the thiasos on various Facebook groups with gems such as this:

I have never met Sannion to give him a fair judgement, but I think it’s a bit vain to dub himself leader of Hellenismos just because he writes a blog. Then, who does he call to his ‘leadership’ meeting? Kyrene? A two faced, backstabbing, bitch. Edward? A fool with blatant disregard for the teachings of Orpheus. I hope there is better leadership in this community than that. If this is the best the community can offer, I’ll be happy in my own corner with the gods where I have been content to stay for nearly a decade.

Clearly this girl is having a moment fueled by jealousy over our success. After all, she’s been running a fundraiser to help build a temple for Apollon, the god of purity, in Las Vegas since January and only managed to raise a couple hundred bucks. Thiasos members and readers of this blog meanwhile helped raise several grand to get folks to the Polytheist Leadership Conference and assisted Ruadhán in moving into his new apartment. That’s got to sting.

But there’s no reason for this to turn into some kind of petty vendetta. Our communities are too small to constantly be at each other’s throats. So in the spirit of Ms. Beard I’d like to help draw attention to some of the services my self-pointed adversary is offering.

Apparently Brandie Elaine is also a self-appointed Pythia who will answer your questions on Facebook in cute rhymey verse just like the Delphic oracle didn’t do:

Candy craving. Ranting. Raving. Let go of what is not worth saving.

Enviable family tree Olympian blood coursing through thee

Driving to succeed. Ambition. Supplies you with your ammunition.

Risk of non conformity. Embrace the individuality.

Change for the better. Answered prayers. Loyal friends at the top of the stairs.

Her qualifications for this are quite astounding:

I am a devotee of the Olympian Gods, trained in both Greek and Native American Mysticism. I was raised in the tradition of the Native American Shaman / Medicine Man and am able to accurately interpret all your dreams and visions. I walk between the worlds and commune with the Great Spirit in the traditional old ways. I was initiated into the path of the ancient Greeks by Todd Jackson, founder of both the Yahoo and Facebook Groups Kyklos Apollon and work most closely with Greek God Apollon. I am capable of all kinds of oracular processes and supplication in regards to the ancient practices of Hellenic Polytheism.

For the low, low price of $33.00 this Native American Shaman / Medicine Man will conjure your custom Native American Spirit Guide for you:

You may choose your preference of male or female and the tribe, or I will preform a general call. These spirits are very powerful nature magick guides and will assist you in speaking to animals, shape shifting, daily battles,herbal connections and understanding, and spiritual healing of yourself and others.

Have you lost your soul? Check behind your couch – that’s where I usually find mine. But if it’s not there Brandie Elaine will help you track it down for a meager $30.

For $50 she’ll whip out the big guns and perform HERCULES Banishing and exorcism Ritual by Apollo’s Priest for you:

I require the address of the location from which the entity is to be removed (I will see it using Google Earth in order to focus).Remember that Hercules is also a constellation – where you are will not matter.

Unfortunately I’ll have to pass on that one as I’m not in the habit of giving my home address or other personal information to strangers on the internet, even ones who sound totes legit like Brandie Elaine does.

But I might take her up on that whole third eye activation thingy:

Have you lost the ability to see and hear the world of the spirits that occupy the world around you? This is an ability everyone is born with and slowly, the world around us closes that ability off to our minds. I am trained in a powerful technique of activation that only gets stronger as time passes. Recover your natural psychic abilities. These are not meant to be for a chosen few, it is something we are all capable of and I can assist you in the return of this birth right power, quickly.

My forehead is getting all tingly just thinking about it. (Look, I rhymed does that mean I’m becoming Pythic too?)

If that’s not your bag Brandie Elaine thankfully also offers psychic readings, dream interpretation, cloud-divination, ask a Stoic and custom spell casting.

But perhaps the most important service Brandie Elaine offers is a rite of Ancient Greek Reverse Adoption:

Listen. Can you hear the call? Echoes in the ancient halls approach us. Those of us who need a focus, guiding hands, loving commands, protection and some balance, Olympus will adopt us.

I am a high priestess of the Gods of ancient Greece and am happy to offer my services in reverse adoption of a Greek God based on your energy frequency, where you are in your life, and where do you wish to be. This will include a vessel of their choice, invocations of the deity that chooses you and what are their acceptable offerings with a description of their powers, how they will speak to you and how they will influence your life.

You get all that for just $44.44! What a steal!

So maybe if you give Brandie Elaine your precious moneys she’ll stop harassing people on the internet.

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Reminder about Óski’s Gift

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“To his friend a man should bear him as friend, and gift for gift bestow, laughter for laughter let him exchange.” (Hávamál 42)

Twice a year our household makes a charitable donation to a worthy cause in return for the many blessings the Gods have seen fit to bestow upon us. As my partner and I were discussing which charity should be the recipient this time around it struck us – that money could do the most good in our community. And by that we don’t mean charities local to the Hudson Valley.

A lot of polytheist folks out there have great ideas for things they’d like to do for their Gods and Spirits but lack the resources to manifest that vision: offer a special sacrifice, organize a local gathering, do research or put out a book, provide assistance to the homeless or veterans and so on and so forth.

And so to help foster the growth of our communities and support each other in our work for the next three years our household will be contributing $300 towards Óski’s Gift, a scholarship given to a worthy member of the polytheist community, each equinox.

In order to be considered for this people must contribute a short (900-1300 words) description of what they would like to do, Who they are doing it for and how that will benefit the polytheist community with a deadline of three days before the equinox. These accounts will be posted to my blog to encourage others and the winner will be chosen on the equinox by Odin through divination. Óski is a heiti or by-name of Odin meaning “Bestower of Wishes” so it only seemed proper that he should get to decide.

If others would like to contribute financially to this beyond the $300 we’ll be giving you may contact me at krasskova@gmail.com to find out how. This is also the address that proposals should be sent to.

Together we are stronger; together we can create a better community.

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Interfaith work: necessary or distracting?

Rynn Fox asked a number of polytheists and pagans to share their answers to the question “is interfaith work necessary or a distraction” with the Wild Hunt audience.

Here is my response:

I think it really depends on the nature of the work a person is called to do. In my case I’m trying to build a religious community that venerates Dionysos and his associated gods and spirits. The majority of my time and energy goes into research, writing, worship and tending to the spiritual and other needs of my people.

What remains after that goes into fostering dialogue with other polytheists around ways that we can mutually support each other in the restoration and promulgation of our ancestral traditions, which has resulted in projects such as Wyrd Ways Radio, the Polytheist Leadership Conference and the forthcoming Walking the Worlds journal.

I also feel that it’s important to engage in educational outreach with the neopagan and occult communities, particularly with regard to respect for diversity and boundaries, since ignoring our differences tends to create a hostile environment that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to work together on areas where our interests do happen to overlap.

Beyond that I have an interest in ecology and social justice, though I rarely have anything left to give beyond contributing financially to groups whose aims and efforts I agree with. As such I have almost no engagement with members of abrahamic, dharmic, indigenous or other religious communities, to say nothing of secular humanist or political groups, though I applaud their efforts when they are not in conflict with my own agendas.

But that’s me, and I have no expectation that others share my vocation or prioritize things the way I do. Indeed I think our communities are made stronger by encouraging people to pursue the goals and activities that they care most about and are uniquely skilled to perform. As Homer said, “No island is made for the breeding horses nor is any man capable of accomplishing all things.” We need priests and scholars and magicians and artists and educators and homemakers and laborers and politicians and soldiers and activists and so on and so forth, each doing their part to create a better society. This is what makes the polytheist worldview superior to all others—the recognition that there are many gods and many ways to serve those gods. It’s only a distraction if you’re not doing the work of your heart.

Be sure to check out some of the other responses as they’re well spoken and thought-provoking.

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Boy does Dionysos get around: pop culture edition

Things have been pretty heavy around here lately, so here are some glimpses of Dionysos through the lens of pop culture.

Here he is in The Smurfs:

Bacchus

Episode Paradise Smurfed from Season One.

Bacchus at first offered his paradise realm to the visiting Smurfs for them to enjoy seemingly without charge, but as they evaded his traps during their game of “hide and hunt”, his real intentions became apparent: he was going to have the Smurfs for his dinner. Of the three Smurfs who tried to escape when Bacchus used his powers against them, only Brainy and Greedy escape while Lazy was trapped behind a wall of ice, which enabled Bacchus and his cat to grab him. Fortunately for Lazy, though, the whole thing was a dream, and the only ones who were grabbing him were Brainy and Greedy trying to wake him up.

Here he is in Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters:

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Otherwise known as Mr. D.

Dionysus is the Greek god of grape-harvest, wine, madness, parties, and ecstasy as well as theater. He is also known as Mr. D, the camp director of Camp Half-Blood. He was placed as the director by his father Zeus as punishment for chasing after an off-limits nymph. After the decree that Olympus would be closed and that gods would have no contact with their demigod child, he was recalled to Olympus.

Here he is in Disney’s Fantasia:

Fantasia

Pastoral Symphony sequence of Fantasia.

The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. A mythical ancient Greek world of centaurs, cupids, fauns and other figures from classical mythology is portrayed to Beethoven’s music. A gathering for a festival to honor Bacchus, the god of wine, is interrupted by Zeus, who creates a storm and throws lightning bolts at the attendees.

Here he is in Class of the Titans:

Dionysus

Episode Little Box of Horrors from Season One.

Dionysus is the God of wine and leisure. Pot-bellied and sporting a receding hairline, glasses-wearing resident chemist of the Gods. He manages to develop a cure for the Seeper plague that was released from Pandora’s Box. Dionysus believes that every mistake you make will result you to become more knowledgeable. Odie is slightly doubtful about this.

Here he is in Xena: Warrior Princess:

bacchus

Episode Girls Just Wanna Have Fun from Season Two and recurring character after that.

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” opens with Xena and Gabrielle running into Joxer, who has a package for Xena. It contains the talking head of Orpheus. Orpheus’s head informs Xena that Bacchus has decapitated him, and that he must be stopped. They arrive at a nearby town, and Gabrielle goes to a party and dances with a group of Bacchus’s bacchae: female vampires created by Bacchus. Meanwhile, Xena defeats two bacchae. Elsewhere, Bacchus plots to turn Xena into an “eternal bacchae”. The next day the protagonists go to the cemetery next to Bacchus’s catacombs to collect dryad bones. These bones are the only thing capable of piercing a bacchae’s heart and killing them. Xena kills one of the skeletal, winged dryads and procures a sharp bone. Gabrielle then turns into a bacchae; she had been bitten the previous day at the party. Gabrielle escapes into the catacombs and the group gives chase. They find Gabrielle, Bacchus, and a large group of bacchae in the middle of a ceremony. Gabrielle is about to drink Bacchus’s blood from a cup and become a permanent bacchae, but Xena knocks the cup to the ground with her chakram. A fight ensues and Xena attempts to kill Bacchus, but he informs her that only a bacchae can kill him. Xena lets Gabrielle bite her, becoming a bacchae, and then kills Bacchus, after which all of Bacchus’ bacchae servants, as well as Xena and Gabrielle regain their humanity.

Bonus pic – here’s the talking decapitated head of Orpheus:

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More questions for the archiboukolos

Over the last couple months I’ve been doing a semi-regular series of posts where I answer people’s questions about the theology, practice and organizational structure of the thiasos of the Starry Bull which has been immensely fun and helped me to nuance my own expression of these things. Today’s question is a little different from the others in that this person did not e-mail me directly, leave a comment on my blog or contact another member of the thiasos and have them pass it on to me. Instead this was posted to a separate and unaffiliated group on Facebook, but I’m going to go ahead and take a shot at answering it.

Brandie Elaine writes:

My understanding of the earliest priests of Dionysus is that it was he, himself, who initiated them. I am capable of leading others towards experiences, but it is up to him to give the experiences. I have never depended upon anyone to hand me to a god and I don’t believe it is necessary to do so. They listen, they watch, and they show up. This is what is my own experience. This is why this path is rewarding. This is why the mysteries are not dead. I don’t need the endorsement of Sannion or anyone else to legitimatize my own experiences and I caution others who think they need that legitimacy. Hellenic Leadership? He writes a blog. It takes more than blog writing to call yourself a leader. That is my honest opinion. I have never met Sannion to give him a fair judgement, but I think it’s a bit vain to dub himself leader of Hellenismos just because he writes a blog. Then, who does he call to his ‘leadership’ meeting? Kyrene? A two faced, backstabbing, bitch. Edward? A fool with blatant disregard for the teachings of Orpheus. I hope there is better leadership in this community than that. If this is the best the community can offer, I’ll be happy in my own corner with the gods where I have been content to stay for nearly a decade.

I’m curious where your understanding of early Dionysian religion comes from since the first mention of Dionysos in Europe is the Linear B inscriptions which already list an assortment of ritual functionaries of the god, including leaders of processions, dancers, and sacrificial priests. Likewise Archilochos, Herakleitos and Herodotos all refer to various orders of civic priests and heads of private, voluntary religious associations showing that Bacchic cults were anything but egalitarian, anarchic affairs. In fact Euripides, whose play The Bakchai has probably done the most to shape this modern conception since it explores the tensions and intersections between freedom vs law, new vs old, state vs religion and other important polarities, contains the lines:

Dress yourselves in spotted fawn skins,
trimmed with white sheep’s wool.
As you wave your thyrsos,
revere the violence it contains.
All the earth will dance at once.
Whoever leads our dancing—
that one is Bromios!

And Dionysos goes among the Thebans disguised as his own votary for much of the play. In fact you can get a glimpse of how pervasive and diverse Dionysian priesthood was by clicking here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and numerous other places as well. Why, there are even whole books and academic articles devoted to the topic, though reading is hard so I’m not surprised that a lot of folks on the internet aren’t familiar with this information.

That said, I agree with your broad assertion that the most intense and intimate experience between an individual and their deity is initiated by that deity and requires no human intermediary – in fact I’ve argued as much numerous times before, most forcefully in my piece You do not need external validation! However the dichotomy you are setting up is a false one, based on a gross misunderstanding of authority, tradition and priestcraft. It is not the experience of communion that is imparted through such structures but context and lineage and additionally priests are there to offer guidance and support. Can a person go it alone? Absolutely. But why should they have to?

Because of fear? Fear of giving up control, fear of being taken advantage of, fear that you may be taken to a place further than you can go on your own. Perhaps you work with Dionysos in a way that is different from how I do, but my master commands that I be fearless or at least that I do not let fear and doubt and inhibition govern my life.

He also doesn’t want me to be stupid and it would indeed be stupid to put yourself in the hands of a person you do not know well or have some measure of trust in.

Which, by the way, is one of the reasons that the thiasos of the Starry Bull is structured in the manner that it is, so that a person has to put in six months as an akousmatikos before contacting me to begin the process of becoming a boukolos and one must serve in that capacity for some time before being considered for initiation into our mysteries. While this gives me the opportunity to get to know and evaluate members it also allows them to do the same with me. If your only awareness of me is as some guy with a blog who decided to declare himself an evil cult leader one day then yeah, you’re totally justified in being cautious. Frankly I’d be downright suspicious of a dude like that. I certainly wouldn’t give him money or entrust my spiritual well-being to him.

Trust is a two-way street and trust is absolutely essential when you are going through an experience like initiation. I can tell you that I’m trustworthy, point to my twenty plus years’ experience serving Dionysos, all the public rituals I’ve led, groups I’ve founded, books I’ve written, and the ridiculous amount of unpaid hours I’ve put in advising and interpreting religious matters for people. But that doesn’t mean shit. I could have done all of that and still be a predatory sociopath or, this being the internet, I could just be making it all up. Which is why I suggest that folks hang out and get to know me by observing me in action, talking to me, challenging me and collaborating with me. You shouldn’t make a snap decision about anyone or rush to judgment without considering all of the relevant facts first. No man is so good that there is not some evil in him or so evil that there cannot be found the tiniest shred of good. To discover the measure of a man you must weigh the totality of his thoughts and deeds. But remember that you can only hold him accountable for what is there.

As an example you seem to be under the impression that I have dubbed myself the leader of Hellenismos. I have not. In fact for a while now I have been very adamant that I am not even a member of the Hellenic community, to the point that I organized a strategy session at the Polytheist Leadership Conference (bringing together members of Hellenion, Elaion, Neokoroi, Neos Alexandria, thiasos of the Starry Bull and YSEE as well as several solitaries because I thought they needed to meet and talk face to face in order to get the ball rolling) which I myself did not attend. When asked, I identify as a Magna Graecian polytheist, a Bacchic Orphic and a member of the thiasos of the Starry Bull and I speak authoritatively only with regard to the last of these. I have very pointedly stated that:

I do not speak for all Dionysians.

I do not speak for all Orphics.

I do not speak for all Hellenics, Romans, Thracians or syncretic Egyptians.

And I sure as hell do not speak for all polytheists and even less so for all neopagans.

For that matter I do not speak for any god, spirit or human but myself.

Does that sound like someone who believes himself to be the leader of Hellenismos to you? And what enables me to speak authoritatively with regard to the thiasos of the Starry Bull is that I am the one who founded this group. The wonderful thing about the world we live in is that if you want to be the Grand Poobah of your own tradition and lay down all the rules you absolutely can! No one is going to stop you unless you break the rules of the state or commit such impieties that you provoke the wrath of the gods.

Of course the real challenge is getting other people to play along.

Want to know what the secret of my success is?

I listen.

I listen to what the gods and spirits tell me they want their tradition to be about.

I listen to the ancestors, whether they are speaking directly to me or their wisdom comes through the texts they left behind, so that I can learn how they accomplished the things I desire to.

And I listen to what people are saying – and almost as importantly what they are not saying – when they convey a longing for community, for identity, for structure and for engaged and shared religious experience.

And that tells me what to do.

Do I have infallible hearing? Absolutely not! Do I let too much of myself get in the way, or wrongly prioritize what I am hearing, or clumsily execute things from time to time? Sadly, it is so. But this tradition is a work in progress and together all of us are creating something pretty amazing. My job at this point is to keep it going until the tradition has the strength and momentum to sustain itself, until there are enough knowledgeable, experienced, dedicated and passionate individuals to carry it forward into the future. This necessitates a much more direct involvement on my part than I am frankly comfortable with. I have spent a large part of the last two decades running from positions of authority because even though I am skilled at motivating and directing people I find responsibility weighs heavily on my shoulders and I have a strong anarchic and antinomian streak. Consequently I have disappointed people who were relying on me in the past and destroyed groups by making them egalitarian and democratic before their time. If there is one thing that may truthfully be said of me it is that I learn from my mistakes.

If you do not find the structures and requirements that I have put in place for the thiasos to your liking, there is nothing obligating you to participate. At the akousmatikos stage people are free to believe and do as they like provided they don’t cause trouble for the group. The path of boukolos is one of personal service to Dionysos and his retinue tailor-made for the individual. All prescriptions and prohibitions are determined through divination. I assist and offer advise where I can, but it is very self-directed which is why the first test consists of the person contacting me to express interest in pursuing the role. I take a firmer hand with those who wish to be mystai but only because I need to confirm to my own satisfaction that they will come through the experience of initiation in more or less one piece because as the one guiding them in this I am taking a large share of responsibility for their personal well-being both during and afterwards.

Now the only reason to do this is because you believe that there is something to the specific mysteries of this tradition and you will benefit from having undergone them. Dionysos is infinitely complex. Not only does he preside over many mysteries but there are plenty of intense and powerful ways to relate to him that are not mysteries – mainadism being a perfect example of that.

If you are satisfied with what you have access to outside the confines of the Starry Bull tradition then you have no need to accept my authority. That is the price only if you want what I am offering. And that’s not about ego-gratification. It’s about respect for the office and trust that I am capable of transmitting certain blessings and powers during the process of initiation. This is very different from getting hazed into a fraternity.

Hopefully we understand ourselves better now.

In closing I would like to make a personal request to you, Brandie Elaine, and to all of my other detractors. If you have a problem with me or my methodologies please either contact me directly to work it out (my e-mail address is plastered all over the place so I’m fairly easy to get ahold of) or if you absolutely must excoriate me online I would request that you limit your attacks to me and me alone. As inappropriate as it is to vent your spleen on members of my group it’s even more so to target folks who are completely unaffiliated with the thiasos and haven’t even exchanged e-mails with me in years. I will happily answer for the sins I may have committed but no one else should be held accountable or damned by association for something I have said or done. Not only is it unjust but it’s a fucking cheap shot to take that only results in you looking like an ignorant, belligerent bully.

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Sic transit gloria mundi

 

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Galina’s latest Honoring the Ancestors: A Basic Guide is out:

To many polytheists ancestor work is crucial to having healthy, deeply engaged, productive spirituality. It provides a foundation, a protection, and a vital source of personal luck and power that positions one to better withstand the challenges of engaged, devotional living.

Galina is also running a special offer:

I will be doing a one time sale of ten copies, personalized and signed with the prayer card of your choice for $25 plus $5 S&H. If you are interested, please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com.

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No good deed

I was contacted by a person who goes by Marie Benoit, Kerra Eivor, thelandofthesevenhorizons and no doubt a number of other online aliases. They claimed to be looking for information on Dionysos and shared a lot of rambling, incoherent and contradictory information about themselves.

I rolled my eyes and dutifully began answering their questions as best I could, since part of my service to the god of madness is treating the mentally divergent with respect.

This resulted in about ten or twelve more e-mails along these lines:

I have this image in my head of Dionysus with his back turned yet he is calling me, beckoning with his hand. He is distant and there is lavender coloured sparkly energy everywhere. I see it over and over and over in my head. Somehow in my mind I know even though he is not there at the same time he is near my old school in a rural area, where I went through a lot of suffering.

Also how I set up an alter I don’t have room and am I supposed to be right by the alter when I meditating the whole time?

Once I had waded through all of that and answered what I could (i.e. what I was able to make sense of, which was about one out of every three e-mails) I sent them a PDF of my book Ecstatic for free (since they claimed to be on welfare and disability and were thus living hand to mouth) and explained that a lot of the information they were looking for could be found in it, and I’d be happy to discuss this material and any other questions they had once they were done with it.

I turned off the computer and watched a movie with my partner and when I came back found my inbox flooded with a bunch more e-mails. A tone of frantic aggression was creeping into them towards the end since I had apparently been intentionally ignoring this person.

By the time I was finished reading everything I was not very happy, but I kept my cool and reiterated:

Sounds like you’ve got a lot of questions – I like that kind of enthusiasm! Once you’ve read through Ecstatic I’ve got another book that specifically addresses Bacchic Orphic afterlife beliefs. When you’re done with that I’ll be happy to answer any remaining questions you’ve got.

Almost immediately I got 4 or 5 e-mails back from this person, now overtly insulting and threatening. So I informed them that I was breaking off contact.

To which they replied:

Why?! What did I do wrong? I just wanted your opinion! I’m not involved in Anti-Cosmic Satanism in any way I just thought that as a religious person you could have insight into that one. You don’t have to insult me. This is so random and rude. You give me no reason for this sudden condemnation. Surely your God does not tell you to act in such a manner, are you some kind of moralist?

To which I responded:

I don’t need my gods to tell me what to think or how to behave – they gave me a brain so that I could do that all on my own. And I was not being rude – I merely reminded you that you are violating xenia. I gifted you with a free PDF of my book and explained that the answers to the questions you were asking could be found in it. Instead of taking my word on that and actually doing some reading for yourself you continued bombarding my inbox with e-mails demonstrating a lack of respect for me, for my time, and for the information you seek.  You didn’t actually reply to anything I said and were incredibly insulting. I love helping folks find ways to deepen their connections to the gods and spirits but I am under no obligation to allow people to treat me like shit in order to do that. When you are ready to listen and conduct yourself like a respectful adult then we can talk.

As expected this resulted in a flurry of further e-mails, culminating in this sickening diatribe from them:

Hi Oh Most Might High Lord Sannion the Great and Unfathomable Prophet of Dionysus,

I thanked you for your help more than once, did you fail reading comprehension in school? I’m not sure where you are getting that I had no gratitude. I was grateful, at least until you became abusive. I also did apologise, you have vary vary sensitive feels, huh?

It is the mark of a weak mind to constantly insult someone for no reason. Your book was poorly written pornographic tripe, truly weird and not in a good interesting way. Your book is absolutely clouded by your own personal biases as to obscure the god you claim to love. For example you mix in transgenderist politics with talk or male and female souls. Newsflash, sex is a biological reality, not some magical pink fluffy thing that tickles you inside. Your cock is male and so is every other man’s.

You are a bitter old man it seems, envious of my youth and throwing any pebble you can. A don’t know many “spoiled brats” chronically ill and living on welfare from working class families but have fun with your fantasies and projections, it says more about you than it does me. You are the same as any entitled man who has everything handed to him in this patriarchal culture so this is yet another projection of your delusional maleness on to me.

Women do not get things handed to them like men do. You must be sheltered or willfully ignorant to the reality of the world.

As for your beliefs that women are “receptacles” that is truly misogynist. Misogynist, ageist, classist- you are no better than a right wing fundamentalist Xtian, you are a fundamentalist Pagan. Your cult is pseudo-historic and completely absurd, worshiping pop-culture figures. Ha! You might as well pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

You shouldn’t be proud of leading a cult, you should be ashamed of your special snowflake delusions, your pettiness, and your child-like tantrums when you are overwhelmed by too many emails. Are you autistic? Is that why you can’t handle social media? You are so socially inept you must run an internet cult and throw a hissy fit when you too overstimulated by a couple emails.

You obviously have issues in your life you like to take out on random people on the internet you know nothing about. I wish you well in spending your time on such endeavors. I could suggest some more celebs to fap to, er, I mean worship. Nikki Manaj, Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Big Bird, Al Capone, The Tooth Fairy etc.

I’m sorry you are a pornsick window licker and thank you for giving me your book because I’d rather be shot in the stomach and go septic than read anymore of this unforgivable dog shit you call a book. I’d rather be shot in the stomach and then have a stray, worms-ridden dog shit in my open, septic, festering wound, because I would be more welcoming to that dog shit than this dog shit.

Tumblr will be pleased to learn that, totally unbeknownst to me, I have become a trans activist and pop-culture pagan. Neat.

I’m equally baffled as to where they’re getting the rest of this from – except the bit about leading a cult. I am very proud of you thiasos folk as you’re fucking awesome and doing some truly incredible things. But that awesomeness is in you guys, not me so it’s not a personal pride. However I digress.

The reason I am posting this exchange is that between their extreme level of delusion and the violent threats they’ve made, I would strongly recommend others not have anything to do with Marie Benoit, Kerra Eivor, thelandofthesevenhorizons or any of their other aliases. Forewarned is forearmed.

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Dig if you will

In my post on Columbia I included a link and an excerpt from an article Alison Leigh Lilly (who assures us that she is an animist polytheist not a naturist) had written a couple years ago expressing some of the misgivings that she and others had about this emergent goddess of American patriotism. She was far from alone in expressing these concerns but I chose to highlight her post as opposed to some of the others because I found it well-written, balanced and respectful though still critical of ideas she didn’t agree with, something that cannot always be claimed of other of Columbia’s detractors.

In other words I found it to be an exemplary model of how to engage in such communal discussions, which was kind of the whole point of the post. I mean, if we are going to be talking about this issue (and there’s every indication that we will) let’s do so in a mature and productive fashion. Hence why I ended the piece with a link to the Columbia devotional anthology and encouraged pagans and polytheists of color to contribute their important voices to this conversation, as they are still so often left out. You will note that at no point do I state what my personal views on Columbia are or what others should think about her, merely that I hoped “we have a lot of thoughtful, constructive, civil and even-handed discourse to look forward to in the coming weeks.”

Needless to say I was then quite surprised to discover Lilly commenting not only at my blog, but at The Wild Hunt as well where she wrote this:

Hey David — Just wanted to swing by to let you know that I fully and whole-heartedly support what you’re doing. :) A blogger recently quoted something I wrote from four years ago in a way that implied I was trying to pick fights with you and other devotees of Columbia over this current event. So just in case you saw that, please know that I’m 100% in support of your work, and this blogger is just being silly.

Wow! Where is she getting that from? I read over the post three or four times just to make sure there wasn’t something I had missed. Nowhere in there did I claim that Lilly had posted this in response to the ritual in DC or that she was picking fights with anyone, whether involved in said ritual or not. The closest I came to offering my interpretation was by saying that she found “certain aspects of this goddess’ history and character to be rather problematic” and otherwise let her words speak for themselves.

If her views have evolved since posting that I am sorry to have misrepresented her current position, but there was nothing to indicate that in the post and I certainly don’t read her blog. The post came up during a search for criticism of the goddess Columbia. I actually considered going with a paranoid screed from the anti-Illuminati camp instead, but thought that might not be in keeping with the neutral tone I was aiming for with this piece.

I wonder if this sort of thing is behind a lot of the misunderstandings and animosities in the pagan and polytheist communities. If you go in assuming the worst of someone you will inevitably find confirmation whether that was the author’s original intent or not.

And just in case anyone is confused about the title: while my father was indeed a bold man and I take after him in certain respects that is not actually why I chose it. It is an allusion to the song “When Doves Cry” by popular 80s recording artist Prince, since columba is Latin for dove and the song is about conflict over origins. In no way should this be taken as a denigration of Prince, recording artists, doves, parenthood or people who know Latin

prince

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Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold

396px-They_Shall_Not_Perish

Saw the following on The Wild Hunt this morning:

Yesterday was the funeral for slain teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Throughout the country, vigils were held in solidarity with Brown’s family. Among them was #HandsUpDC in Washington DC. Quote: “Join us for a candlelight vigil as Michael Brown’s family lays him to peaceful rest. We’d like to stand in solidarity with #Ferguson and demand the de-escalation of the police and military.” A group of local Pagans took part in the event, carrying signs that said “Justice for the beloved dead.” Pagan author and activist David Salisbury, who lives and works in Washington DC, also organized an informal ritual at the vigil which “will invoke the justice goddesses: Libertas, Justica, Columbia, and Themis.”

Anyone want to take bets on what the next hot topic is going to be? Yeah, me either.

Especially since many, like animistic polytheist blogger Alison Leigh Lilly, find certain aspects of this goddess’ history and character to be rather problematic:

For me, though, the primary obstacle to seeing her as a goddess is that — unlike the gods of ancient cultures who developed organically over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years — we know for a fact that Columbia was invented quite recently in U.S. history, specifically for the purposes of propaganda and nationalistic fervor. We also know that she was “revived/revealed” by Pagans several years ago as a reactionary response against fundamentalist Christians, an attempt to beat those Christians at their own game of degrading the separation between church and state, insisting Columbia (rather than Christ) was the “patron deity of the government.” To me, worshipping a figure who has such a history, and who is named after a man who committed genocide, torture, and rape — well, it’s just unethical. It requires a certain amount of willful ignorance or cognitive dissonance that, to me, undermines the purpose of the spiritual life as a journey towards integrity and integration. The worship of a propaganda figure used to justify slavery and genocide is especially offensive to Native American Indians against whom so much violence was directed, a community that still suffers from marginalization and exploitation today. In fact, I’ve never met a non-U.S. Pagan who didn’t think the whole concept was deeply offensive and in very bad taste. This to me says that there’s still a certain amount of American exceptionalism and isolationism going on, that Columbia is not helping her followers to think of themselves as global citizens or to think about how their actions affect (and sometimes harm) others. Your own comment reflects this — you seem to think that these problems (these noble intentions gone awry) are in the past, not realizing that naming a goddess after Columbus is, despite your own noble intentions, an on-going insult to the peoples who lived in this land before colonialism arrived.

With race, politics, religion and current events all intersecting like this I’m sure we have a lot of thoughtful, constructive, civil and even-handed discourse to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Perhaps this will even generate lots of neat content for the upcoming anthology from Greco-Egyptian publishing phenom Bibliotheca Alexandrina spear-headed by Literata called Columbia: A Devotional for the Spirits of America:

She is the American spirit, both a personification of the country and the goddess of the land itself. She has myriad aspects and has been represented in varying ways over the years; each of us may see her differently depending on how we experience America, from the details of the dirt beneath our feet to the high-flying ideals we hold dear.

I am particularly interested in how pagans and polytheists of color view her, considering how much the American Spirit has done to, sorry I mean for them over the years. Like Galina said, this portion of our community is all too often overlooked, ignored and marginalized in discussions of this nature. Hopefully that will change.

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Gratitude

sad-soldier

As a way of thanking polytheists who are serving their country through active military duty, my partner Galina is offering to send them prayer cards and copies of her Sanngetall Press books for free, including the forthcoming Honoring the Ancestors: A Basic Guide. If you or anyone you know would be interested in taking her up on this offer details can be found here. Please help spread the word. These women and men have done so much and receive so little in return. The least we can do is give them some cool free shit.

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Those who don’t remember the dead deserve to be forgotten by their descendants

PSVL has argued that some form of ancestor veneration is not just important but a defining characteristic of traditional and contemporary polytheisms across the globe:

One can’t really do this type of practice as a humanist realistically, because for it to be effective, it’s a two-way interaction: the living humans venerate their ancestors, remember them, and make regular offerings and honor them in particular fashions, and then the ancestors work behind-the-scenes to make one’s life better, to facilitate the connections one has to others, and so forth (often with motives entirely their own that are not revealed to the living humans involved). One can’t be equivocal about this: it’s either true that the ancestors in question still exist and are around and accessible to living humans, and thus one’s practices are effective, or one doesn’t believe that and thinks it’s all arbitrary speculation about the afterlife and therefore does nothing, or one thinks that the ancestors don’t and can’t exist, and one does nothing. Both of the latter viewpoints amount to the same thing (i.e. doing nothing), and thus I don’t really think there is much of a distinction between “ancestor agnostics” and “ancestor atheists” on this point. And yet, the technologies for ancestor veneration across cultures and historical periods are remarkably similar, as are many of the beliefs which accompany, explain, support, and suggest those technological processes. I think this is one of those matters where taking it as “up-for-grabs” and arbitrary and “just about beliefs” pretty much invalidates the possibility of someone participating in the practice fully, and thus it is something of a “requirement” of belief (leading to practice) on the part of the people involved.

What do you guys think?

I’d love to see discussion around this topic and even more than that I’d love to see folks talking about what they do to honor the dead within their tradition and the reasons why they do so.

And if you’re willing to write a blog post on this I’d encourage you to flesh it out and polish it up a bit and submit it to Walking the Worlds, since the inaugural issue of this print journal focusing on polytheism and spirit-work is going to be on ancestors and hero-cultus. We’ve already got some top-notch articles by some of the biggest names in the community but we want to bring together a multitude of voices reflecting the diversity of ways and approaches within contemporary polytheism. This shit’s gonna be good.

wtw

The deadline for this issue is October 1st and for information on where to send your stuff as well as the submission guidelines, click here. Unlike most of the anthologies, e-zines, pagan and polytheist portals and suchnot out there we’re actually paying contributors – two cents a word, in fact, which is even better than what a lot of mainstream professional publications are offering in this disposable digital age, because we value your work enough to pay you for it.

Of course a large part of what’s enabling us to do that is advertising and subscriptions. And so to sweeten the pot for subscribers we’re running a really cool contest which you can read about here.

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Divine with the Muses

Here’s a form of bibliomancy I came up with for the Mousai, using verses from some of the top authors in their respective genres:

Kalliope – (Epic) Homer
Klio – (History) Herodotos
Euterpe – (Elegy) Archilochos
Erato – (Lyric) Sappho
Melpomene – (Tragedy) Seneca
Polymnia (Hymns) Orphic
Terpsichore (Dance) Lucian
Thalia (Comedy) Aristophanes
Urania (Astronomy) Aratos

Instructions

In a bag place a representation of each of the Mousai, either one of their traditional symbols or something you personally associate with them. When you need to determine who to consult, reach in and draw one of the tokens out.

Cast four dice that have been consecrated to the Mousai and add the resulting numbers together to receive your message.

Kalliope

4. healing salves, by which he can put an end to the black pains
5. I rejoice at hearing what you say, son of Laërtes
6. For no island is made for driving horses or has broad meadows
7. Would that you not plead with the noble son of Peleus
8. One omen is best, to defend your country
9. Honor then the gods, Achilles, and take pity on me
10. be valiant, that later generations may also speak well of you
11. How then could I forget divine Odysseus?
12. But Zeus causes men’s prowess to wax or to wane
13. Talk not like this. There’ll be no change before
14. Odysseus has come and reached home, though he was long in coming
15. For mighty Herakles, not even he escaped his doom
16. In no way do I mock you, dear child, nor am I playing tricks
17. For even fair-tressed Niobe turned her mind to food
18. Offer me not honey-tempered wine, honored mother
19. Eurymachos, it will not be so. And even you know it
20. and vow to Lycian-born Apollo the famous archer
21. Bad deeds don’t prosper. The slow man for sure overtakes the swift
22. And let him stand up among the Argives and swear an oath to you
23. You would learn what mighty hands I have to back me up
24. Come now, in strict silence, and I shall lead the way

Klio

4. I know that human happiness never remains long in the same place.
5. Force has no place where there is need of skill.
6. Haste in every business brings failures.
7. I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.
8. If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.
9. This is the bitterest pain among men, to have much knowledge but no power.
10. Many very rich men have been unfortunate, and many with a modest competence have had good luck.
11. I am going to talk at some length about Egypt.
12. All think that their own customs are by far the best.
13. In peace sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
14. How much better a thing it is to be envied than to be pitied.
15. Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.
16. Hippocleides doesn’t care.
17. Good. Then we will fight in the shade
18. so that the actions of people will not fade with time.
19. It was the fault of the Greek gods, who with their arrogance, encouraged me to march onto your lands.
20. It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.
21. Call no man happy until he is dead.
22. But this I know: if all mankind were to take their troubles to market with the idea of exchanging them, anyone seeing what his neighbor’s troubles were like would be glad to go home with his own.”
23. When the Many are rulers, it cannot but be that, again, knavery is bred in the state.
24. Look upon this corpse as you drink and enjoy yourself; for you will be just like it when you are dead.

Euterpe

4. The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
5. Soul, my soul, don’t let them break you, all these troubles.
6. Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight.
7. It was a beautiful shield: life seemed somehow more precious.
8. Be bold! That’s one way of getting through life.
9. stood on the edge between sea and wind
10. For I shall no more heal a wound by weeping than make it worse by pursuing joys and feasts.
11. No longer doth thy soft skin bloom as it did; ’tis withering now.
12. Victorious! All hail Lord Herakles!
13. Singing to the fluteplayer’s accompaniment.
14. Thou hast taken a cricket by the wing.
15. I’d as soon hump her as kiss a goat’s butt.
16. I care not for the wealth of golden Gyges, nor ever have envied him.
17. Whosoever lives is enchanted by song.
18. In that situation feet are the most valuable.
19. I sinned and I won’t deny it.
20. I beg you, Mouse, say something to the audience.
21. And much was the wealth which, gathered with long time and labour, he would pour into the lap of a harlot.
22. Aisimides, nobody who considers the censure of the people could enjoy very many pleasurable moments.
23. For all these things are very far from my eyes.
24. For it is at the hands of your friends that you are strangled.

Erato

4. But come now, if ever before you heard my voice
5. If she runs now she’ll follow later.
6. They gained great things there, and at sea.
7. But I say it’s what you love.
8. He’s equal with the Gods, that man.
9. Those I care for best, do me most harm
10. Stand up and look at me, face to face.
11. Nightingale, herald of spring, with a voice of longing.
12. Yet I am not one who takes joy in wounding, mine is a quiet mind.
13. Dear mother, I cannot work the loom.
14. He is dying, Cytherea, your tender Adonis, what should we do?
15. And I say to you someone will remember us in time to come.
16. Hesperus, you bring back again what the Dawn light scatters.
17. The hours flow on.
18. And I would not exchange her for all the riches of Lydia.
19. It’s not right, lament in the Muses’ house.
20. Like the sweet-apple reddening high on the branch.
21. For the Graces prefer those who are wearing flowers, and turn away from those who go uncrowned
22. Remembering those things we did in our youth. Many, beautiful things
23. Shivering with sweat, cold tremors over the skin, I turn the colour of dead grass, and I’m an inch from dying.
24. The Muses have filled my life with delight.

Melpomene

4. All hail! my house, and portals of my home.
5. What put such desperate thoughts into your heads?
6. Take heart, and no more let the tears stream from your eyes.
7. Great Apollon! What a prelude to thy story!
8. Come, let me veil my head in darkness.
9. For I had been lucky enough to witness the rites of the initiated.
10. Well, I must lead them, taking them by the hand to draw them after me, like a ship when towing.
11. Fly, luckless wretch, from my unholy taint.
12. How glad am I to emerge into the light and see thee.
13. I purposely made my entry by stealth
14. I will do so; the advice is good.
15. When I have beheaded the miscreant, I will throw him to dogs to tear.
16. Farewell my labours!
17. My father weeping o’er some mischance.
18. Aye, and brought to the light that three-headed monster.
19. I will not neglect to greet first of all the gods beneath my roof.
20. Henceforth I shall be called Herakles the Victor.
21. Endurance must have a limit.
22. God help us! What suspicions these dark hints of thine again excite!
23. Which of my friends is near or far to help me in my ignorance?
24. I never remember being mad.

Polymnia

4. Foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide.
5. All-flourishing, connecting, mingling soul.
6. Its secret gates unlocking, deep and strong.
7. With all-devouring force, entire and strong, horrid, untam’d.
8. Mortal destroying king, defil’d with gore
9. So vast thy wisdom, wond’rous, and sublime.
10. Arm bearers, strong defenders, rulers dread.
11. Endless praise is thine.
12. Dire weapon of the tongue.
13. Rejoicing in the chase.
14. For labour pains are thy peculiar care.
15. And glorious strife, and joyful shouts are thine.
16. To every mortal is thy influence known.
17. Secret source of persuasion.
18. Dissolving anxious care, the friend of Mirth, with darkling coursers riding round the earth.
19. Of seed, of fruits abundant, fair, harvest and threshing.
20. Men beneath thy righteous bondage groan.
21. When blust’ring winds in secret caverns pent, by thee excited, struggle hard for vent.
22. Avert your rage.
23. Pleasure abundant and pure belongs to you.
24. ‘Tis thine alone to punish.

Terpsichore

4. The best antiquarians, let me tell you, trace dancing back to the creation of the universe.
5. Of dancing then, in the strict sense of the word, I have said enough.
6. You will find that dance is no easy profession, nor lightly to be undertaken.
7. Another essential for the pantomime is ease of movement.
8. Socrates–that wisest of men, if we may accept the judgement of the Pythian oracle–not only approved of dancing, but made a careful study of it.
9. A youth leads off the dance.
10. But in Pantomime, as in rhetoric, there can be too much of a good thing.
11. Pantomimes cannot all be artists; there are plenty of ignorant performers, who bungle their work terribly.
12. Rhythm says one thing, their feet another.
13. I have the authority of Plato, in his Laws, for approving some forms of dance and rejecting others.
14. Indeed, they pride themselves more on their pantomimic skill than on birth and ancestry and public services.
15. The Ethiopians go further, and dance even while they fight.
16. Like Calchas in Homer, the pantomime must know all ‘that is, that was, that shall be'; nothing must escape his ever ready memory.
17. Still, it seems to me that we have no right to visit the sins of the artist upon the art.
18. Persons who divulge the mysteries are popularly spoken of as ‘dancing them out.’
19. Leaving the rest for poets to celebrate, for pantomimes to exhibit, and for your imagination to supply from the hints already given.
20. Each of them has its own peculiar form of dance; tragedy its emmelia, comedy its cordax, supplemented occasionally by the sicinnis.
21. In old days, dancer and singer were one: but the violent exercise caused shortness of breath; the song suffered for it, and it was found advisable to have the singing done independently.
22. In Delos, not even sacrifice could be offered without dance and musical accompaniment.
23. The choral dance is modeled on that which Daedalus designed for Ariadne.
24. Faithfully to represent his subject, adequately to express his own conceptions, to make plain all that might be obscure;–these are the first essentials for the pantomime.

Thalia

4. There is no honest man!
5. Learn not to contradict your father in anything.
6. Wealth, the most excellent of all the gods.
7. Under every stone lurks a politician.
8. Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.
9. Ah! the Generals! they are numerous, but not good for much!
10. You will never make the crab walk straight.
11. One must resign oneself to misfortune with good grace.
12. In still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good
13. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true.
14. We are crying with hunger at our firesides.
15. Tis the Whirlwind, that has driven out Zeus and is King now.
16. And yet you are fool enough, it seems, to dare to war with me, when for your faithful ally you might win me easily.
17. An insult directed at the wicked is not to be censured; on the contrary, the honest man, if he has sense, can only applaud.
18. Do you like Nephelokokkygia?
19. A man may learn wisdom even from a foe.
20. To invoke solely the weaker arguments and yet triumph is a talent worth more than a hundred thousand drachmae.
21. Prudence is the best safeguard.
22. Why do you bite your lips and shake your heads? Why are your faces blanched? Why do you weep?
23. I want all to have a share of everything and all property to be in common.
24. I pained folk but little and caused them much amusement; my conscience rebuked me for nothing.”

Urania

4. From Zeus let us begin.
5. On either side the Axis ends in two Poles.
6. Her two feet will guide thee to her bridegroom, Perseus, over whose shoulder they are for ever carried.
7. Andromeda, though she cowers a good way off, is pressed by the rush of the mighty Monster of the Sea.
8. He ever seems to stretch his right hand towards the round Altar.
9. Each crop in turn brings a sign for the sowing.
10. Yonder, too, is the tiny Tortoise, which, while still beside his cradle, Hermes pierced for stings and bade it be called the Lyre.
11. Beneath both feet of Orion is the Hare pursued continually through all time.
12. For dread is the Bear and dread stars are near her.
13. For oft, too, beneath a calm night the sailor shortens sail for fear of the morning sea.
14. For with varying hue from time to time the evening paints her and of different shape are her horns at different times.
15. For men divide the sowing season into three – early, middle, late.
16. It would profit much to mark the last four days of the old and first four of the new month.
17. For thus do we poor, changeful mortals win in divers ways our livelihood.
18. Seek in calm for signs of storms, and in storm for signs of calm.
19. Not useless were it for one who seeks the signs of coming day to mark when each sign of the Zodiac rises.
20. Thrice the mastich buds and thrice wax ripe its berries
21. Nor are dark halos near the Sun signs of fair weather.
22. Here too that Crown, which glorious Dionysos set to be memorial of the dead Ariadne.
23. The anxious husbandman may rejoice in well-being.
24. Make light of none of these warnings.

If you’d like me to come up with a unique system of divination for your personal gods and spirits, click here for details.

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I act like an ass to frighten giants

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I’m about six foot and three hundred mumble mumble lbs.

By definition any god who is taking up residence in my corpus has to be, if only for the temporary duration they are doing so, smaller than that.

In fact the god who most often can be found inside me measures 750ml on average, though lately with my tolerance being so freakishly high I have to consume two or three times that amount of him to even begin feeling anything.

Giants are bigger than both of us. Thankfully my god knows how to handle them.

You exhaust them to death by letting them kill you as many times as it takes:

The story says that the giants found Bacchus inebriated. After they tore him to pieces limb by limb, they buried the bits, and a little while later he arose alive and whole. We read that the disciples of Orpheus interpreted this fiction philosophically and that they represent this story in his sacred rites. (The Third Vatican Mythographer 12.5)

Or you show them your ass:

According to Eratosthenes,  after Jupiter had declared war on the giants he summoned all the gods to combat them, and Father Liber, Volcanus, the satyrs, and the silens came riding on asses. Since they were not far from the enemy, the asses were terrified, and individually let out a braying such as the giants had never heard. At the noise the enemy took hastily to flight, and thus were defeated.” (Hyginus, Astronomica 2.23)

 

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The Tragic Story

Or Every time you create sacred space you make baby Zagreus cry.

Remember how I was discussing Orpheus’ ritual reenactment of the titanic sparagmos? I think every time we make sacred space that’s what we’re doing.

Mind you, I was sleep deprived, stoned out of my head and obsessively listening to this song by Coil when I had the epiphany, but hey, that’s usually where all my best ideas come from.

First off, check out the lyrics for the song:

Does death come alone or with eager reinforcements?
Does death come alone or with eager reinforcements?
Death is centrifugal
Solar and logical
Decadent and symmetrical
Angels are mathematical
Angels are bestial
Man is the animal
Man is the animal

The blacker the sun
The darker the dawn
Flashes from the axis
Flashes from the axis
On the humming way to the stars

Holy holy, holy holy, holy oh holy
Holy holy, holy holy, holy
Holy holy, holy holy, holy

Tell me that shit isn’t relevant to the Apollonian thread I’ve been tracing here of late.

Now consider this, from Sarah Veale’s The Linguistic Origins of Sacred Space:

There were however, some spaces which were more sacred than others. These spaces were known as templum, a word that looks an awful lot like our modern “temple” but actually refers to a segment of space deemed sacred, rather than a building or something like that (to which the term aedes would apply). In On the Latin Language, Varro attempts to explain where this term came from. He says the following:

The word templum is derived from the word ‘to gaze’ [tueri], and so likewise is the word ‘to contemplate’ [contemplare]…the notion that a temple [templum] is a consecrated building [aedes sacra] seems to have stemmed from the fact that in the city of Rome most consecrated buildings are temples… (Varro, On the Latin Language, VII.8-10)

Varro’s explanation connects the word “templum” to the actions of augurs, who ultimately determine the boundaries of sacred space. They can do this in many ways, but here Varro details the establishing of sacred boundaries by trees, and how one sees the physical space between them. Basically, the auger eyeballs a specific space, chooses a few boundary points (in this case, trees), and designates that area as holy. Easy peasy. [...] In Greek, the word for sacred space is τέμενος, a word whose root is τμ and is related to the idea of cutting or separating (verbal form: τέμνω). According to the most-holy-and-venerable LSJ, this word means “a piece of land cut off II. A piece of land dedicated to a god, the sacred precincts.” We can see, in this use that a physical space is cut away from regular space, and given a special status. The idea is the same as the Latin one, this is an area set apart for things related to the gods.

Phrased one way, the rational eye of the priest looks out upon the chaotic and undifferentiated world and imposes order by cutting the sacred off from the impure. Phrased another way the solar wolf rends and devours the bull of night.

Which may well be why the remains of Dionysos are stashed at Delphi, the navel of the world from which all distances are measured:

The people of Delphi believe that the remains of Dionysos rest with them close beside the oracle; and the Holy Ones offer a secret sacrifice in the shrine of Apollon whenever the devotees of Dionysos wake the god of the Mystic Basket. (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 201-202)

Holy, holy, holy.

Something to keep in mind though: the bull-wolf combat is only part of the cycle. According to the Orphics of Southern Italy, the bull-god regenerates himself as a serpent so that he can beget himself once more as a bull:

If any one asks who narrates this, then we shall quote the well-known senarian verse of a Tarentine poet which the ancients used to sing, “Taurus draconem genuit, et taurum draco.” ["The bull begot the dragon, and the dragon a bull.”] (Arnobius of Sicca, Adversus Nationes 5.20)

Which adds an interesting twist on that other Delphic myth:

Orpheus told them in song how Apollon long ago, when he was still a beardless youth rejoicing in his locks, slew the monster Delphyne with his bow beneath the rocky brow of Parnassos. (Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautica 2.703)

You see, as much as it sucks for Dionysos when Apollo gets all stabby and choppy, by doing so he fulfills a vitally necessary role as this is what enables Dionysos to cycle through his bull and serpent forms. The god is born to die, you see. Over and over and over and over again. As are all the ones destined to carry him. Alexander, Antony, Morrison, etc. are all struck down just as that final moment of glorious triumph approaches. And the fucked up thing is they know it’s coming because you get the power only on condition that you’re willing to relinquish it when your time is up.

Because if you don’t, if you actually beat Apollon then very, very bad things happen. Why, the whole natural order unravels and things revert to their primordial state of undifferentiated chaos.

Kind of like what’s going on in the news today, but worse. Way worse.

Mainades are Dionysos’ cosmic insurance policy. Should he or his king get too carried away and refuse to throw the contest (or to be fair, too drunk or crazy to remember the rules of the game: one need not assume hubris and malice aforethought) they’re there to take him down and complete the ceremony of sparagmos.

This is the tragic core of our story – keep it in mind while observing Karneia!

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We are nothing if not polyvalent

As far as the hieros logos of the Starry Bull goes, you’ve got several options (such as this, this, this, this, and this) as well as this passage (Dionysiaka 12.138-171-244) from Nonnos:

Since then Dionysos, who never wept, lamented thus in his love, the awful threads of Fate were unloosened and turned back; and Atropos Neverturnback, whose word stands fast, uttered a voice divine to console Dionysos in sorrow:

“He lives, I declare, Dionysos; your boy lives, and shall not pass the bitter water of Acheron. Your lamentation has found out how to undo the inflexible threads of unturning Fate, it has turned back the irrevocable. Ampelos is not dead, even if he died; for I will change your boy to a lovely drink, a delicious nectar. He shall be worshipt with dancing beat of tripling fingers, when the double-sounding pipe shall strike up harmony over the feast, be it in Phrygian rhythm of Dorian tune; or on the boards a musical man shall sing him, pouring out the voice of Aonian reeds for Ismenians or the burghers of Marathon. The Muses shall cry triumph for Ampelos the lovely with Lyaios of the Vine. You shall throw off the twisting coronal of snakes from your head, and entwine your hair with tendrils of the vine; you shall make Phoibos jealous, that he holds out his melancholy iris with its leafy dirge. You too dispense a drink, the earthly image of heavenly nectar, the comfort of the human race, and your young friend shall eclipse the flowery glory of the Amyclaian boy: if his country produces the bronze of battle, your boy’s country too increases the shining torrent of red juice like a river – she is all proud of her gold, and she likes not steel. If one boasts of a roaring river, Pactolos has better water than Eurotas. Ampelos, you have brought mourning to Dionysos who never mourns – yes, that when your honeydropping wine shall grow, you may bring its delight to all the four quarters of the world, a libation for the Blessed, and for Dionysos a heart of merry cheer. Lord Bacchos has wept tears, that he may wipe away man’s tears!”

Having spoken thus, the divinity departed with her sisters.

Then a great miracle was shown to sorrowful Bacchos witnessing. For Ampelos the lovely dead rose of himself and took the form of a creeping snake, and became the healtrouble flower. As the body changed, his belly was a long long stalk, his fingers grew into toptendrils, his feet took root, his curlclusters were grapeclusters, his very fawnskin changed into the manycoloured bloom of the growing fruit, his long neck became a bunch of grapes, his elbow gave place to a bending twig swollen with berries, his head changed until the horns took the shape of twisted clumps of drupes. There grew rows of plants without end; there selfmade was an orchard of vines, twining green twigs round the neighbouring trees, with garlands of the unknown wineblushing fruit.

And a new miracle was then seen! since young Cissos in his play, climbing with legs across the branches high in a leafy tree, changed his form and took the air as another plant; he became the twining ivy plant which bears his name, and encircled the newgrown orchard of tame vines with slanting knots.

Then Dionysos triumphant covered his temples with the friendly shady foliage, and made his tresses drunken with the toper’s leaves. Now the boy grown plant was quickly ripening, and he plucked a fruit of the vintage. The god untaught, without winepress and without treading, squeezed the grapes firmly with hand against wrist, interlacing his fingers until he pressed out the inebriating issue, and disclosed the newflowing load of the purple fruitage, and discovered the sweet potation: Dionysos Tapster found his white fingers drenched in red! For goblet he held a curved oxhorn. Then Bacchos tasted the sweet sap with sipping lips, tasted also the fruit; and both so delighted his heart, that he broke out into speech with proud throat:

“O Ampelos! this is the nectar and ambrosia of my Zeus which you have made! Apollo wears two favourite plants, but he never ate laurel fruit or drank of the iris! Corn brings forth no sweet potation, by your leave, Deo! I will provide not only drink but food for mortal men! Your fate also is enviable, O Ampelos! Verily even Moira’s threads have been turned womanish for you and your beauty; for you Hades himself has become merciful, for you Persephone herself has changed her hard temper, and saved you alive in death for brother Bacchos. You did not die as Atymnios is dead; you saw not the water of Styx, the fire of Tisiphone, the eye of Megaira! You are still alive, my boy, even if you died. The water of Lethe did not cover you, nor the tomb which is commont to all, but earth herself shrank from covering your form! No, my father made you a plant in honour of his son; Lord Cronion changed your body into sweet nectar. Nature has not graven Alas upon your tearless leaves, as on the inscribed clusters of Therapne. You keep your colour, my boy, even on your shoots. Your end proclaims the radiance of your limbs; your blushing body has not left you yet. But I will never cease avenging your death; I will pour your wine in libation to your murderous destroyer, the wine of his victim! Your lovely petals put the Hamadryads to shame; the juice of your fragrant bunches brings round me a breath of your love. Can I ever mix the applefruit in the bowl? Can I drop figjuice in the cup of nectar? Fig and apple have their grace as far as the teeth; but no other plant can rival your grapes – not the rose, not the tinted daffodil, not anemone, not lily, not iris is equal to the plant of Bacchos! For with the newfound streams of your crushed fruitage your drink will contain all flowers: that one drink will be a mixture of all, it will combine in one the scent of all the flowers that blow, your flowers will embellish all the spring-time herbs and grass of the meadow!”

Anyone want to see if they spot all of the necessary components that qualify it for consideration? If it helps, read this first as a refresher.

Also, watch this video and see if you notice where Dionysos puts in a cameo:

The music goes really well with Nonnos.

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Let their memory not fade into oblivion

And for those in the thiasos who honor the trans dead among the retinue of Dionysos, it might prove helpful to bring Leto into that work:

Leto took pity on Galateia because of her unremitting and distressing prayers and changed the sex of Leukippos into a boy’s in order to save the child from her murderous father. In memory of this change the citizens of Phaistos still sacrifice to Leto Phytie (the Grafter) because she had grafted organs on the girl and they give her festival the name of Ekdysia (Stripping) because the girl had stripped off her maidenly peplos. It is now an observance in marriages to lie down beforehand beside the statue of Leukippos. (Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 17)

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