Thunder and wine

Finally got the books blessed, signed and shipped out. Sorry it took me so long, folks, but all my energy has gone into healing and fighting off the pain from the injury and I don’t do half-assed blessings. Hopefully they’ll get to you guys in time to start the sequence of prayers on the Kalends of January.

I’ve got three two copies left so if you want one you’d better act fast!

(I plan to order more copies of Thunderstruck as well as my other Nysa Press titles after the new year, so don’t despair if you miss out on this batch.)

Now I’m going to collapse back on the couch and finish my recuperation. Still got a mountain of e-mail and don’t plan to be back online til the end of the week at the earliest.

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Break free

One of the oldest and most universal ways of consecrating something to the dead and underworld powers is to break it.


The thought occurred to me this morning as I lay sleeplessly on the couch, my leg in its blue-black brace propped up before me, beginning to feel the effects of the pain-killers wearing off.

I had intended to kick off construction of the antron with some ecstatic work in the basement Monday as it was the birthday of Bacchic prophet Jim Morrison, but a bout of illness and sudden, source-less depression side-tracked me. I woke up on Tuesday feeling better than I had in weeks, so chalked it up to a cathartic purging of the last of the shit holding me back before I undertake this holy endeavor. Emboldened by the significant improvement of my health I decided to hike into town to get some supplies and mail off the signed copies of Thunderstruck with Wine I didn’t get a chance to last Friday.

And didn’t even make it down our driveway. We’ve had rapidly fluctuating temperatures which produced a sheet of treacherous black ice that caused my legs to go out from under me. I landed square on my knee, howling in excruciating pain. The doctors said I dislocated my kneecap and possibly tore some of the surrounding tendons.

At first I took this as a really bad sign and perhaps even an indication that I wasn’t supposed to pursue the antron despite the favorable divination I’d received when I checked in around it previously. But the remarkable good luck of the day – it just being dislocated instead of something much worse coupled with the fact that they saw me as soon as I arrived in the emergency room even though the lobby was full of people with injuries just as bad if not worse than mine, some of whom had been sitting there for upwards of three hours – made it difficult to believe that the favor of my gods and spirits had been withdrawn and my dreams were to come to naught.

But then while reading a study of Apulian funerary practices I recalled something they told me when I was just starting out as an Orpheotelest: to do this work you need to walk with one foot in this world and one in the other – which I guess in my case wasn’t just a metaphor. I guess that’s what one gets for serving literal gods and spirits.

My dear partner Galina has agreed to mail off the copies of Thunderstruck later this morning – I deeply apologize for the delay, folks – and I will slowly work my way through the mountain of e-mail that’s building up, but it may take me a while as it’s rather uncomfortable to sit at the computer desk. This also means a delay in working on the antron. On the plus side, though, it does give me an opportunity to catch up on my reading since I can’t do much else. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery!

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Message to people of color in the aftermath of Ferguson: you’re being watched


As an organization dedicated to hospitality and meant to be open to a diverse set of voices that must be heard, so too do we use our ears to listen, and our eyes to see.

We see the harm.

We see the fear and the hatred.

We see the injustice.

And from the Pantheon Foundation:

Lastly, as individuals and as an organization, we say to Pagans of color: We see you. We stand with you. We are here to be of service to you.

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the story remains the same

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Where do we go from here?


Butterypoundcake wrote:

I never in my life thought I’d ever be saying something like this but it’s time to reclaim the word Pagan from the NuAtheist Pseudo-Pagans. Polytheism as a new popular term isn’t going to catch on quickly enough to make words like Pagan irrelevant.

I’ve been hearing more and more people express this sentiment of late – and I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong. (Especially since the new atheism has colonial trappings, as has been noted here and here.)

Although I’m only peripherally involved with it these days, the pan-polytheist movement was fundamentally about two things:

* Affirming the reality and plurality of gods, spirits, ancestors, etc.
* Advocating for a diversity of ways, traditions, and philosophies.

Removing ourselves from the neopagan umbrella was deemed necessary so that we could network and collaborate with kindred spirits across tradition-specific boundaries without getting tangled up in endless disputes over fundamental principles and identity politics. Early on we adopted the rallying cries “different from doesn’t mean better than” and the even more punchy, “And, not Or” which was coined by an Anomalous Thracian and is part of the guiding vision of

Q: Are you anti-Pagan?

A: No. Quite the contrary, it is the belief of the founding staff of that there is an essential “And, not Or” identification that must be left on the table. By this we mean that there is no necessary contradiction between a Pagan identity (which for many is social, communal, magical, or even political) and a Polytheist identity (which is generally considered religious). We believe in fostering healthy relationships and building important bridges between different groups and platforms — Pagan and Polytheist alike! — as well as keeping interfaith dialog open as an option for cooperative and collaborative undertakings, including issues of social justice, ethics, and education.

A lot of good things came out of the pan-polytheist movement – who else is excited about Many Gods West?!?! – and we had some tremendously important discussions that shifted things not only within our own religious communities, but within neopagan circles as well. And because of the stances we took on certain issues we found ourselves getting support from rather unexpected sources. Dialogue was opened. We discovered common ground and goals. We started listening to each other more and people found ways to respectfully disagree.

Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not all sodomy and roses. Human stupidity is the only limitless resource and there’s been plenty of it on display this last year – plenty. But I’ve also noticed a maturer tone creeping in, a desire to put aside the bull and get real shit done even if that means working with someone you once considered a partisan foe. The gods deserve more, the gods deserve better. Don’t let the inconsequential get in the way of that.

Especially since there is a genuine threat out there – one that seeks to erode liberty and diversity and everything that makes life worth living. We must combat that force in the passageways of our hearts as much as in the streets of Ferguson. Break the chains of the archons where you find them; many gods, no masters.


Of course all of this is strictly an indifferent hypothetical as far as I’m concerned. What people do is ultimately their own business and as for me, my effort these days is being channeled into creating an underground tradition. (Only the cool kids will be let into the Basement of Terror.) So do what you want – just make sure you’re making an informed decision and not falling under the spell of glittery rhetoric.

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In propaganda the obvious interpretation is usually the wrong one

A friend sent me a screen-shot of a conversation Cara Shulze was having with rape apologist Todd Jackson, wherein the belle of the tea party said:


To which I reply:

Mad Men: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (#1.1)
Don Draper: The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

Mad Men: The Hobo Code (#1.8)
Don Draper: I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent.

Mad Men: The Wheel (#1.13)
Don Draper: Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro copywriter. Greek, named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new”. Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of… calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It’s delicate… but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means, “the pain from an old wound”. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the Wheel. It’s called a Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved.

Mad Men: Love Among the Ruins (#3.2)
Edgar Raffit: Why do you people insist on making us sound like villains?
Don Draper: Your concern over public opinion shows a guilty conscience. What good is that serving you if what is to be done is already under way?
Edgar Raffit: So let’s say I don’t have a guilty conscience.
Don Draper: Good. And let’s also say that change is neither good nor bad, it simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy, a tantrum that says “I want it the way it was,” or a dance that says, “Look, something new!”
Edgar Raffit: Would you draw the line at 50 percent?
Don Draper: I’m not drawing a line at all. P.R. people understand this, but they can never execute it. If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation.
Edgar Raffit: What is that conversation?
Don Draper: I was in California. Everything is new, and it’s clean. The people are filled with hope. New York City is in decay. But Madison Square Garden is the beginning of a new city on a hill.

People are going to buy; I’m not attempting to stop them. I’m just trying to make them aware of who’s selling and more importantly what those people are selling.

Any devotee of Hermes will tell you that the Word is more powerful than the Coin.

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Gen X nostalgia destroys everything

I was reading this article 31 Upcoming Film Reboots and Sequels That Are Completely Unnecessary when I had a horrifying realization.

College kids are squaring off against power-drunk police and the KKK.
There’s pushback against reproductive rights and women in the workforce.
Racial tension, unemployment, the environment, revolutions in the Middle East and growing concern over a frightening new disease dominate the nightly news.
An imperial power is wrecking itself in a prolonged, unwinnable and unpopular war in Afghanistan.
Relations between Russia and the USA are becoming increasingly strained.

This present reality is nothing more than a crappy remake of the 1970s.

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I’m more ignorant than I can imagine

PSVL raises an interesting point regarding the need for rites de passage even (and perhaps especially) among the non-binary in our pagan and polytheist religious communities:

So, what about those of us who aren’t of a binary gender, or for whom there is not a consensus gender category, a widely recognized set of pronouns, any honorific or title of respect (e.g. “sir,” “ma’am,” “Mr.,” “Mrs./Ms./Miss,” etc.), or really any cohesiveness at all in the current state of our overculture? What of those of us who are trying to build such identities on a spiritual level and within our own religious contexts? I have often critiqued “coming out theologies” in the past–and, indeed, I find the “coming-out-theology-and-nothing-else” viewpoint of a great deal of queer spirituality problematic and extremely unhelpful to this day–but, it’s exactly this kind of “coming out theology” that might be useful and needed to coalesce a movement, as well as to foster individual people’s identities, as gender-atypical beings. This kind of “coming out theology” goes hand-in-hand with “coming of age” rituals, because there would have been a gendered component to those in most cases in traditional, indigenous, polytheist/animist societies. So, perhaps, in the interests of fully recognizing the social component of gender identity, and fostering it in people who are of those atypical, non-binary, and non-mainstream gender identities, such coming out and coming of age rituals will be necessary, even for those of us who have been ostensible “adults” for decades. I don’t have any major plans, discussions, or suggested ritual texts at this point (other than involving the Tetrad++); I’m only addressing this issue now because I think the conversation needs to get started, and I hope that many of you will have some good suggestions on how to get this process going in ways that are useful and productive, not only for those of us who are of these gender identities, but also for the wider community.

I find this interesting because it’s something that’s never really come up in my life or practice. The extent of my queerness is that I feel sexual attraction to males and females alike and I regularly paint my fingernails. (And I write Carebear/Hellraiser slash fanfic.) Now the majority of my gods and spirits are queer as three dollar bills and I have a deep appreciation for the aesthetics of genderfuck and most of my associates fall outside of societal norms in one way or another –  but as far as I’m concerned? I am so comfortable in my masculinity that I’ve never really had to question who and what I am in that way. I’ve not only questioned but changed damn near everything else about myself, but since I was 14 I have been a big, solid, hairy guy and that’s likely to remain so until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Because of that I have the privilege of not having had to consider how my internal or external gender affects my religious identity. In fact, in the more than a quarter of a century that I’ve been practicing the two have never intersected.

I think part of that is because I do not approach my gods within a gendered role. While such structures do exist within Dionysian religion I have never to my knowledge accessed my gods through them, nor have I felt deprived since, as an example, I am excluded from the mainadic experience. Anyone can be a devotee or an oracular priest or a fool or an Orpheotelest or an evil cult-leader – or at least there is no correlation between one’s genitals and these roles, though other faculties and skills may be required.

But I suspect part of it may also be that I’m just not noticing how gender and sexuality shape these roles since I am so comfortable in my identity. Would I respond differently to the ubiquitous phalloi if I were other than a bisexual man? Almost certainly. So even if this isn’t as big a deal for me as it is for others I think there’s value in contemplating such things and appreciate PSVL bringing this to our attention.

Equally worth considering was what followed the excerpt I quoted above, which you should think long and hard about:

Something which was said in the media activism panel at the PACO event, by a white heterosexual cisgendered male, was that he has nothing to gain by being any ally or defending people of non-privileged identities; and to that I have to say bullshit, and until people of privileged identities figure out that they have not only nothing to lose, but something to gain by the empowerment of other people, we’ll continue to have passive and spineless allies who don’t really advance our causes and who start to default to “can’t we all just be human?” when the going gets tough. Until the mainstream recognizes and affirms our gender identities outside of the typical binaries, and sees doing so as a positive and important thing that will result in their own gain (due to the engaged and fully-recognized vital presence of a more diverse population), progress on these matters will be slow and stunted. So, the advice and support of binary gendered people is really essential to the matter, and your respectful discussions and contributions are most welcome below.

It looks as if this issue is going to be addressed at The Wild Hunt soon since T. P. Ward (who, as you may recall, interviewed me recently about animal sacrifice) is looking to talk with some cissies:

I’m working on a story for The Wild Hunt about gender and language. In what may be a comment on where the Pagan and polytheist communities are at these days, I am having more difficulty finding cisgendered people to talk to than anyone else, so I’m hoping for a signal boost. If you haven’t a clue what “cisgender” means, it likely refers to you: it’s a word which describes those of whose bodies and gender identities happen to match each other; if you consider yourself a “he” or a “she” and have never questioned that identification, you are certainly a cisgendered person. My piece will deal mostly with pronouns, so my ideal subjects are people who are aware that there are other pronouns beyond he and she that people use in English to identify themselves or others, whether or not you use those pronouns yourself.  I’m also not opposed to talking to more people who are not cisgendered, because I need all the help I can get since I’m a cismale and I expect I’m more ignorant than I can imagine.  As of this writing, though, I don’t have any cisgendered folk weighing in, and while that may help the majority understand what it’s like to be silenced, it doesn’t make for good journalism.

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May Hermes, Hephaistos and Athene bless our artists

Rebecca the MadGastronomer asks:

I am contemplating starting up a small crafting business. Weaving and spinning, of course, mostly, but also a few other things. Amulets. Spell paper for genius loci, nymphs, and other nature spirits. Prayer hangings like this one, both custom and not. Ritual cords. Spell thread/yarn. Woolly gods (or cotton, linen or silk). Needle-felted gods. Red clay Hellenic alphabet oracle sets. Hanged Maiden divinatory pendulum. That sort of thing. Would anyone be interested? I’d have to run a crowdfunding campaign to get materials

Uhmmm … fuck yeah!

She’s got some great ideas there (and the woman is massively talented; among other things she made the green akousmatikoi bracelets for the thiasos) and as I’ve been arguing for a while now, we need more artisans in the community. There’s a million ways to honor the gods and spirits and few nobler than creating something with one’s own hands.

Which is why I really appreciate the work that Ruadhán put into compiling this list – something I hope people keep around and consult even when it’s no longer Boeotian New Year season! (And don’t forget the awesome books put out by Bibliotheca Alexandrina – or their upcoming titles, several of which have me literally drooling!)

When you buy from folks in your community you’re not just getting unique and beautiful items crafted with care and spirit to offer to your gods – you are supporting an individual in their sacred vocation and forging bonds that help strengthen and manifest community. More, you are expressing your values and opting out of the consumerist nightmare that is destroying our country. While it’s best to own nothing but drugs, books and ritual tools if you must buy – local, small, hand-crafted and eco-conscious is definitely the way to go.

At least that’s what I think.

How about you guys? Should Rebecca start up her small crafting business? Would you be willing to contribute to her crowdfunding campaign to get the necessary supplies?

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I heard your shadow calling

One of the commenters claims this is an English translation of the lyrics:

It’s true
The grove said
I whisper what I see over your shoulder
Stayed untamed
I heard your shadow calling
Playing and hugging
Fair bird
Silvery fish
I see spirits in all
Growing and withering
Dog-like deer
Cruel herd

I don’t care. It’s beautiful and gives me the “feels.”

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the least I could do

Some POC are upset because the major Pagan orgs are remaining silent and inactive in the aftermath of failures to indict the murderers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Which technically isn’t true – Pagan Pro tweeted a call for healing. I’m sure it took them a whole five minutes to post that. Five whole minutes which they’ll never get back. How ungrateful!

I mean, what more do these people want? A denunciation of police brutality and affirmation that black lives matter? Policy and ethics statements condemning racism, sexism, transphobia, etc within their groups? Sternly worded letters to government officials and the media? Fund-raisers to help the families and bail activists out of jail? Boycotts and taking to the streets with signs themselves?

Anyone who’s read Mr. Webster’s poem knows that that stuff doesn’t work:

Our way to the realization of a Pagan future
will not be through the Sword
we will foment no fruitless armed insurrection
Nor will it be through the Cup
no Dionysian revolution will overthrow our sick society
Nor even through the Wand
for the laws of this land are used against us
and we have little access to the halls of justice
But the Coin is for All
with it we can slowly build, collect real power,
train leaders, and enact good stewardship
and build a Pagan future

And magic, apparently, not only doesn’t work but is embarrassing to other Pagans.

All this talk of politics and dead kids has me seriously bummed. Thankfully I can do a little retail therapy with this handy Christmas buyers guide Cara Schulz put together for us. While I’m reading some of those young adult steampunk novels and watching the sexy Scarlett Johansson flick from that list I’ll be sure to send happy and healing thoughts to folks in #Ferguson and #NYC.

No, no. Don’t thank me. It’s literally the least I could do.

I apologize for the gallows humor.

Nothing about this is funny – especially the negligence of Paganism’s self-appointed leadership. Considering how the abuse scandals were handled earlier in the year, it shouldn’t really surprise any of us. Like those scandals, this is an issue with massive repercussions on an individual and societal level and if you come down on the wrong side (and there’s no neutrality or remaining in the bleachers with this one) it’s not just us who will judge you, but history.

Like my partner Galina said today:

As a polytheist, I reject certain elements of our over-culture, especially racism. I know that it’s a hydra that I am tasked with fighting, most of all within myself, every day of my life. I cannot afford avoidance. Moreover, as polytheists, we’re all in unique positions: we have the wisdom of our ancestors and of our very old traditions to draw upon. This type of ingrained, virulent poison that we’re seeing with Ferguson and elsewhere is the product of the Doctrine of Discovery, of Industrialism, and of our doggedly Christianized “modern” world. Things were not always so and as I have said to my students time and time again, we have the power to change this. That change begins by confronting it, by standing up in whatever arenas to which we may have access, and of saying no, this isn’t right, of fighting, of pushing back, of tearing down — brick by brick if necessary–the structures that support such hatred. Because things were not always so, we know that they need not always be this way in the future and we owe it to each other, and to those who come after us of every race, gender, and color, to root this out now.

And if you don’t know what to do, begin by educating yourself – especially on white privilege – and then educate others. Then do more. And keep doing more.

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A sign from below

As I was getting ready to post the last piece my computer suddenly froze. I wait a couple moments, taking tokes on my oracular skull water pipe (I utterly refuse to call it a bong), and then all of a sudden the CD in the computer starts playing this:

Man, we’ve still got four days until the Nativity of the Lizard King and shit’s already this weird?

Oh, we’re gonna have some fun.

How do you plan to mark the day?

I intend to make copious offerings, experiment with a new entheogen I picked up a while back, offer readings with the Oracle of the Doors to anyone who wants one and do some preliminary consecrations for the antron.

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In addition to being my favorite heresiarch, I tend to subscribe to the Christology that Kerinthos put forth:

Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and he then proclaimed the Unknown Father and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being. (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 26.1)

Keeping in mind that the dove is the sacred bird of Dionysos.

That’s why I reject the mythicist position that Jesus never existed and his story was cobbled together from elements of various Mediterranean dying and resurrecting savior gods.

There’s as much evidence that Jesus lived as there is for Sokrates or Empedokles or pretty much anyone before the invention of photography. A lot of that evidence is fragmentary and contradictory and from the beginning people tended to see in him what they wanted to – which is all to be expected considering he was an itinerant holy man and wonder-worker who claimed to be an incarnate god. I just think most people are mistaken about which god he was possessed by – including Jesus himself.

That’s the kicker – I get the impression that Jesus was a thoroughly orthodox 1st century Jew and was actually quite horrified by some of the things that started coming out of his mouth after his baptism in the Jordan. Which is why one of the first things he does is flee into the desert and try to drive the wicked spirit from him, why he so often contradicts himself, was sometimes unable to perform his miracles and struggled so hard against accepting the cup in the garden that he shed tears of blood. As another Neos Dionysos once remarked, “Vae, puto deus fio.”

I close with a couple quotes from my favorite schizophrenic science-fiction author slash prophet, Philip K. Dick:

The Immortal One was known to the Greeks as Dionysos; to the Jews as Elijah; to the Christians as Jesus. He moves on when each human host dies, and thus is never killed or caught. Hence Jesus on the cross said, ‘Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani,’ to which some of those present correctly said, ‘The man is calling on Elijah.’ Elijah had left him and he died alone. (Exegesis 12)

The gentle sounds of the choir singing ‘Amen, amen’ are not to calm the congregation but to pacify the god. When you know this you have penetrated to the innermost core of religion. And the worst part is that the god can thrust himself outward and into the congregation until he becomes them. You worship a god and then he pays you back by taking you over. This is called enthousiasmos in Greek, literally ‘to be possessed by the god.’ Of all the Greek gods the one most likely to do this was Dionysos. And, unfortunately, Dionysos was insane. Put another way – stated backward – if your god takes you over, it is likely that no matter what name he goes by he is actually a form of the mad god Dionysos. He was also the god of intoxication, which may mean, literally, to take in toxins; that is to say, to take a poison. The danger is there. If you sense this, you try to run. But if you run he has you anyhow, for the demigod Pan was the basis of panic which is the uncontrollable urge to flee, and Pan is a subform of Dionysos. So in trying to flee from Dionysos you are taken over anyhow. I write this literally with a heavy hand; I am so weary I am dropping as I sit here. What happened at Jonestown was the mass running of panic, inspired by the mad god – panic leading into death, the logical outcome of the mad god’s thrust. For them no way out existed. You must be taken over by the mad god to understand this, that once it happens there is no way out, because the mad god is everywhere. It is not reasonable for nine hundred people to collude in their own deaths and the deaths of little children, but the mad god is not logical, not as we understand the term. When we reached the Lamptons’ home we found it to be a stately old farm mansion, set in the middle of grape vines; after all, this is wine country. I thought, Dionysos is the god of wine.(VALIS 165-166)

His birthday is coming up, by the way.

No, not Jesus. You don’t pasture sheep in December, even round about Nysa-Scythopolis.

And Dionysos sure as Tartaros wasn’t born on December 25th.

Mr. Mojo Risin’ is the true reason for the season!


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he comes again to establish a kingdom of flesh

This badass Korean Jesus reminded me of my favorite heresiarch Kerinthos:

korean jesus

But Cerinthus also, by means of revelations which he pretends were written by a great apostle, brings before us marvelous things which he falsely claims were shown him by angels; and he says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be set up on earth, and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem will again be subject to desires and pleasures. And being an enemy of the scriptures of god, he asserts, with the purpose of deceiving men, that there is to be a period of a thousand years for marriage festivals. (Gaius, Disputations)

But Cerinthus, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name of John to his work The Revelation. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one. And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion, that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace. (Dionysius of Alexandria, On the Promises)

While this picture of a very uncomfortable Poseidon reminded me of this passage from the Sophia of Jesus Christ:


For from his concurrence with his thought, the powers very soon appeared who were called gods; and the gods from their wisdom revealed lords; and the lords from their power revealed archangels; the archangels from their words revealed angels; from them, semblances appeared, with structure and form and name for all the aeons and their worlds.

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Got your personally signed copy of Thunderstruck?


My order of Thunderstruck with Wine arrived this morning, so I’ll be signing, blessing and shipping those out Friday or Saturday. I’ve got five unclaimed copies left so if you want one you’d better act fast! (I’ve also got an extra copy of Ecstatic if anyone wants it.) Shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested.

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Game changer

I haven’t done divination to confirm that this list is complete but I believe that these are the ones who will be getting shrines in the antron:

The Sirens
The Palikoi
The Winds
The Chthonic Nymphs
The Moirai
The Erinyes
Saint Paul
John the Baptist
The finger of Herakles
Friedrich Nietzsche
Orpheus’ oracular head
Jim Morrison
The Thyiades
Marcus Antonius
Alexander the Great
The Dionysian Dead
The Fairies and Goblins
The Korybantes, Kouretes, Dakytloi, etc.
Mother Hybla
The Satyrs
The Titans
Apollo Soranos

Once I confirm that I have everyone I need for this, I’m going to write special hymns for each of them and come up with a schedule of offerings.

Additionally I plan to set up twelve stations for the enactment of teletai. These stations will consist of:

1) A noose

2) A labyrinth

3) A pair of jars containing the waters of Lethe and Mnemosyne

4) A chest containing a woven mask

5) A mirror with the toys of Dionysos (pinecone, tuft of wool, knucklebones, ball, doll, golden apple, top, bull-roarer)

6) An infernal liknon (consisting of phallos, pomegranate, honeycomb, wheat, gold coins, keys, ball of yarn, snakeskin, goat bones and assorted entheogens) covered with a veil

7) A bed of wolf fur for incubatio rites

8) A bull’s skull

9) A three-legged cauldron

10) A birdcage with an Orphic egg in it

11) A mask on a pillar, draped with ivy

12) Jugs of mead I brew myself for offerings

And reading over this list, I realize I’ve just written myself back into the role of temple priest. Motherfucker.

I think I’ve got a year to put everything together and figure out the protocols and expectations before formally oathing myself to this work. Considering my protean nature I’m only going to commit to a three-year or triateric period of service with the option of renewing my contract once that probationary term is up – assuming I don’t freak out and go on a killing spree or decide to change my focus to Nysa-Scythopolitan Bacchus worship in the interim. (Pun.)

I suspect writing about this publicly is part of the deal, much as I’d prefer just going underground and doing the work – how are people going to learn what living traditions are like when there’s no one modeling it for them? They certainly aren’t going to get it from this diseased and corrupt overculture!

And maybe once I’ve got the system fleshed out a bit more I’ll look into the viability of bringing others into the tradition – sort of a rivulet of the Starry Bull stream of Bacchic Orphism, but focused on this crazy funhouse I’m building in my basement.

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Never give up – hell is closer than you think


I had finally acquired some of the last pieces needed to construct a communal Starry Bull shrine when events precipitated my stepping down as archiboukolos. I had anticipated this change (though I was slightly off on the timing) which is what I initially attributed my feet-dragging with the shrine to. After a couple weeks of coasting (during which I did some pretty thorough and unflinching self-examination) I had a firmer sense of the direction I wanted to take my practice in and figured I should actually get around to putting that shrine together, especially since I’d stripped our guest bedroom bare in preparation. It wasn’t an ideal situation considering the heavy work I intended to do there (we do occasionally have folks stay over, so there was concern about contagion and not just from human-generated miasma – my spirits tend to be rather scary and opportunistic, in case you hadn’t noticed) but space is at a premium in this polytheistic household and you make do as you can.


And yet every time I set out to begin construction I met with external obstacles and strong internal resistance. This led me to question whether a shrine was even necessary for the work I’d be doing and if I was correct in my assumptions about the nature of that work. I got definite but unclear messages through divination and prayer yet when I tried to follow those leads I was consistently shot down. Frustration began to transform into despair until I feared I’d go sane from spinning my wheels.


If I couldn’t be productive in that way I decided I’d throw myself into a writing project and began working on Carried Away, which after a couple abortive starts morphed into a book about the various regional myths of Persephone and Demeter. It made sense to have such a focus since one of the constants in all the downloads and divinations I’d received was that I would be slanting even more towards the chthonic and daimonic side of Bacchic Orphism during this iteration. I was still at the research stage when the strange dreams that bled through into waking hallucinations started up. Nothing too revelatory or earth-shattering (I couldn’t recall details even a couple hours later in most cases) but enough that I knew I was on the right track. (One of the reasons I shelved the idea for a book on Magna Graecian heroes and local myths is that while their stories fascinate and appeal to me on a spiritual-aesthetic level in most cases I hadn’t had more than a fleeting brush with them. I wanted to write something real, not just fanfic about gods and dead people.)


And then Thursday morning, after close to a week of constant illness and poor sleep, I dreamed that I descended into an artificial cavern filled with shrines and the relics of heroes which I paid my respects to before worshiping Persephone and the Dionysos Below. I could feel Persephone’s presence linger even as I rose up into hazy consciousness. The diffuse light of dawn streamed through the windows yet shadows remained, darker and more substantial than they should be. Everything was swimmy and I had difficulty moving. She was whispering to me, but I couldn’t make out the words. And then I heard a flock of geese passing by and was alone in the room.


I didn’t have much time to mull this over, for the next couple days were spent getting ready for the New York Regional Diviners’ Conference. Although the event far exceeded any expectations I had going in, it was a long and intense day – 8:30am to 8:30pm of back to back mind-blowing sessions – that left me exhausted and overly socialized. So when I finally got home I crashed, leaving a controversy of Northern Tradition shamans to talk shop and do their thing in our living room. (Murder of crows, exaltation of larks, deceit of lapwings, murmuration of starlings – isn’t a group of NTers called a “controversy?”) I slept fitfully, waking several times to use the restroom and eventually just accepted that a night of slumber wasn’t in the cards for me. I laid there mulling over the encounter with Persephone, thinking of ways I could turn it into a poem for the book, when it suddenly clicked.


The reason I hadn’t been successful in setting up the shrine in the second-storey guest room is because it was too fucking high. My gods and spirits wanted their space beneath the earth. They wanted the basement converted into an antron or adyton.


That was actually one of the first options considered when I initially began hunting space for the communal shrine but I had dismissed it because the basement is largely unfinished and the “ceiling” is only a couple feet off the floor, meaning one (especially one of my considerable size) would have to crawl around or squat while down there. I filed it away in case I ever needed to do some incubatio rites but kept searching for something that’d give me a little more mobility.


As I lay there in bed I kept getting flashes of how the space was to be laid out – a sequence of shrines representing the topography of the underworld, so that as I went around and made offerings at each of them I would be reenacting a Bacchic Orphic katabasis. I saw how this would open up whole new avenues of my practice – I could do entheogen and dreamwork, necromancy, chthonic nympholepsy, magic, a different kind of oracle than I had been previously offering and I could even bring others through teletai – assuming they didn’t mind crawling around in a dank, dark, dirty, spider-filled “cave.” That element was really starting to appeal to me, as it would lend the proceedings an uncomfortable and uncanny aspect – from the moment I started down the stairs and saw the phrase “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” inscribed on the lintel there would be nothing casual about what I was doing. In fact I started getting a sense that there would be a lot of prescriptions and prohibitions associated with the work of that place.


The following morning I explained my intent to become a basement dweller to Galina and the rest of the crew from NYRDCon and to their credit they took this in stride and even became excited and supportive for me when I returned from checking out the space to see if it would meet my needs.

Boy did it ever.


When I’d done my initial check I hadn’t gone very far back because of the low “ceiling” and creeping, many-legged things in the shadows – but this time I pressed on and discovered that, contrary to what I had assumed, it kept going for the whole length and breadth of the house, meaning I should be able to pull off all those ideas and then some.

I cannot express how good it felt to just sit there in the dark, beneath the earth and that much closer to my gods and spirits. Though I hadn’t done anything yet to formally consecrate the space to them, they were already there.

It’s going to require some effort and expense to get this place worked into shape so that means I’m going to go back to charging for divination, magic and other spiritual services. I will also be accepting donations – monetary and otherwise – if folks want to help contribute to this undertaking. Once I draft some protocols and procedures I may make this entrance to the otherworld available to select individuals.


So, moral of the story: be patient and trust in the gods. Just because your path may become uncertain and full of obstacles doesn’t mean you’re doing sometimes wrong – sometimes it just takes time for their plans to reach fruition and become comprehensible to us.

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wreaths of steadfastness

While this blog is geared primarily towards those with an interest in Southern Italian Bacchic Orphic religious traditions, I’ve got a fairly diverse readership, so let me just come right out and say this: don’t be getting no ideas from this post now.


[The souls in the underworld] that have found a firm footing first go about like victors crowned with wreaths of feathers called wreaths of steadfastness, because in life they had made the irrational or affective element of the soul orderly and tolerably tractable to reason. (Plutarch, De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet 943d)

I may no longer be an archiboukolos but I still got my bull-whip and know how to use it.

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The Light of Truth Reveals the Archons to be Blind Idiots

In case you didn’t catch it, the opening line of the last post was a pun:

The luminous intellect of Edward Butler shown forth in the following today.

Several of them, actually.

First it’s a nod to Phanes, the uroboric hermaphrodite deity of light and goodness whose name means “manifest” or “to shine forth” and is the principle figure of Orphic cosmogony which some equate with Chronos or Kronos.

But it’s also a pun on rw nw prt m hrw “Book of Coming Forth by Day” or the “Book of Emergence into the Light” better known by the colloquial Book of the Dead, which some hypothesize was the basis for the Bacchic Orphic Totenpass or Gold Leaves – a theory that actually goes way back.

Because Edward is a superb Platonic scholar of Egyptian and other polytheist theologies.

Aren’t puns fun? If you know how to tie your word-knots right you can get folks to do just about anything. Like go to Of Thespiae (where the Elder Eros is honored) and buy things like Edward’s books from this list of polytheist wares compiled by Ruadhán just in time for the gift-giving extravaganza of Boeotian New Year. Damn, there’s a lot of cool stuff there! All of it made by writers and artists within our own community. Makes you wonder why so little of it ended up on a certain other list that was recently posted. I suppose it was more important to make room for products from Hollywood and major record labels. Those people don’t have near enough of our money. One thing I’m definitely considering getting from that list is Rhyd Wildermuth’s recently published book. It’d be real cool to have him sign it at Many Gods West.

Another pun! The sun rises in the East, but sets in the West, making a … what?

Crown, like the ones discussed by Light [Ning] Illuminates.

As brilliant as the presenters at NYRDCON, which wrapped just a couple hours ago. (I was particularly impressed with Anomalous‘ aptly titled “Shut the fuck up … and get some training.”) A bunch of the presentations were filmed by Sarenth, who is going to freely release them to the aither once he gets back for your enjoyment and edification. Once they’re up you’ve really got to watch them – they’ll completely change how you see the sacred art of divination and its role in our community. Thanks to everyone – presenters and attendees alike – who made this such a roaring success. And special thanks to Galina for conceiving the idea and seeing it through to fruition. The event far exceeded any expectations I had going in – but hey, don’t take my word for it. Soon you’ll be able to watch for yourself – and without having to pay an arm and a leg to do so!

The thirty-third said: “I am called Agchoniôn. I lie among swaddling-clothes and in the precipice. And if any one write on fig-leaves ‘Lycurgos,’ taking away one letter at a time, and write it, reversing the letters, I retire at once. ‘Lycurgos, ycurgos, curgos, urgos, gos, os. (As quoted in Speaking of insane and immoral spirits …)

Which means you’ll have more money to support the talented craftsfolk in our community.

Ha ha! Pun. Demiourgoi. Get it?

Oh, you will. Saklas, you and all your minions will be overthrown.

There’s more than one way to create community. Buildings crumble, to be covered by ivy and webs of association.

Many Gods.
No Masters.

It’s a damn fine day to be a polytheist.

In fact, the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. (Pun.)

Hera would have destroyed the son of Zeus but Hermes caught him up, and carried him to the wooded ridge where Kybele dwelt. Moving fast, Hera ran swift-shoe on quick feet from high heaven; but he was before her, and assumed the eternal shape of first-born Phanes. Hera in respect for the most ancient of the gods, gave him place and bowed before the radiance of the deceiving face, not knowing the borrowed shape for a fraud. So Hermes passed over the mountain tract with quicker step than hers, carrying the horned child folded in his arms, and gave it to Rheia … he put off the higher shape of selfborn Phanes and put on his own form again, leaving Bakchos to grow a second time in the Mother’s nurture. (Nonnos, Dionysiaka 9. 136 ff)

Now I’m off to the meadows of Persephone to dream a better world into being.

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Dead and dreaming

The luminous intellect of Edward Butler shown forth in the following today:

A post on the Neos Alexandria board inquired about the minor tradition in which the Nemean lion is born from Selene. This seems to derive from Epimenides of Knossos, the great poet and mantis, one of the founders of the Orphic movement. “For I too am sprung from fair-tressed Selene, who in a fearful shudder shook off the savage lion in Nemea, bringing him forth at the bidding of Queen Hera,” (Epimenides, quoted in Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 12.7). Clearly the import of this is not just the tradition about the lion, but Epimenides’ personal association with it, and as a child of Selene. What I had not encountered before, was that Mousaios, another key early Orphic, was also sometimes said to have been a child of Selene’s. Of course Plato says that the Orphics claim that their books come from the Muses and Selene (Rep. 364e). I never thought of all this in connection with Endymion, however. Epimenides was said to have been in a mystic sleep for many years in a holy cave of Zeus on Crete, and to have acquired prophecy thereby. In connecting themselves to Selene, one of the things Orphics might have been doing was identifying in some fashion with Endymion. One of the most interesting things that comes to mind about Selene is the notion that Her name is virtually the same as “Helen”. Helen is born from an egg, which is quite lunar, and her abduction/elopement is clearly a katabasis (descent) of some sort. If there is a particular “psychological” (in the literal sense) import of Endymion’s myth, it may parallel that of the Dioskouroi, as well as the Trojan War. Note that Narcissus is sometimes child of Selene and Endymion. When we see in Helen a Persephone of sorts, the esoteric significance of the Iliad immediately becomes apparent. The Iliad is a psychogony which refuses to remain a private or subjective matter, explicating more fully the worldly consequences which are present, e.g., in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter in more compact form: seasonal transformation, institution of rites.

Brilliant. And utterly spot on. In fact there’s a whole strain of Orphic tradition which equates death with slumber and postulates that this world is nothing more than a binding dream.

Well, well, as you say, life is strange. For I tell you I should not wonder if Euripides’ words were true when he says: ‘Who knows if life is death and death life?’ Perhaps then we are already dead and do not realize it. Indeed, I once heard a clever fellow, an Italian from Sicily, say that the body is our tomb. (Plato, Gorgias 493a)

Indeed, what we experience as death is really an awakening into true life. This is why, for instance, in the collection of Orphic Hymns that has come down to us from a cult-group in second century Asia Minor the closing sequence goes Sleep, Dream and Death.

As I’ve argued before there is no such thing as original Orphic myths. To orphicize is to take a preexisting myth, make it more horrifying and grotesque, and then read a deeper mystic meaning into it – Zagreus being a prime example of this.

As far back as Hesiod you find:

And there near the house of Nyx in the underworld the children of gloomy Nyx have their houses. These are Hypnos and Thanatos, dread divinities. Never upon them does Helios, the shining sun, cast the light of his eye-beams, neither when he goes up the sky nor comes down from it. And the former of them roams peacefully over the earth and the sea’s broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron, and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he holds fast: and he is hateful even to the deathless gods. There, in front, stand the echoing halls of the god of the lower-world, strong Hades, and of awful Persephone. (Hesiod, Theogony 758-767)

Several fragments of Herakleitos allude to this equation:

As in the nighttime a man kindles for himself a light, so when a living man lies down in death with his vision extinguished he attaches himself to the state of death; even as one who has been awake lies down with his vision extinguished and attaches himself to the state of Sleep. (65) Immortals become mortals, mortals become immortals; they live in each other’s death and die in each other’s life. (66) There await men after death such things as they neither expect nor have any conception of. (67) They arise into wakefulness and become guardians of the living and the dead. (68)

And we see this as well in Dionysiac myth. Ariadne is abducted from the labyrinth by Theseus and subsequently abandoned on the island of Dia. She wanders about in distress and finally collapses into a deep, nightmare-haunted sleep. Dionysos the Loosener comes on his ghostly ship from across the far sea and awakens her, stirring within her a lust for life and freedom and restoring to her her crown as his bride and queen of the Bacchants – which is given added significance when you consider the Homeric myth of Ariadne:

Yet Theseus had no joy of his Ariadne, since, before that could be, she was slain by Artemis on the isle of Dia because of the witness of Dionysos. (Homer, Odyssey 11.320)

In other words, marriage to Dionysos is death to the life one knows and something that removes one from the land of death. This parallel is made manifest by Plutarch:

When the soul comes to the point of death, it suffers something like those who participate in the great initiations (teletai). Therefore the word teleutan closely resembles the word teleisthai just as the act of dying resembles the act of being initiated. At first there are wanderings and toilsome running about in circles and journeys through the dark over uncertain roads and culs de sacs; then, just before the end, there are all kinds of terrors, with shivering, trembling, sweating, and utter amazement. After this, a strange and wonderful light meets the wanderer; he is admitted into clean and verdant meadows, where he discerns gentle voices, and choric dances, and the majesty of holy sounds and sacred visions. Here the now fully initiated is free, and walks at liberty like a crowned and dedicated victim, joining in the revelry. (De Anima fragment preserved in Stobaios Florigelium 120)

Another work of Plutarch’s has direct bearing on what Edward was discussing – De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet or On the face which appears in the orb of the moon.

To begin with the imprisonment of Kronos is a state comparable to that of Endymion:

For Kronos himself sleeps confined in a deep cave of rock that shines like gold — the sleep that Zeus has contrived like a bond for him —, and birds flying in over the summit of the rock bring ambrosia to him, and all the island is suffused with fragrance scattered from the rock as from a fountain; and those spirits mentioned before tend and serve Kronos, having been his comrades what time he ruled as king over gods and men. Many things they do foretell of themselves, for they are oracular; but the prophecies that are greatest and of the greatest matters they come down and report as dreams of Kronos, for all that Zeus premeditates Kronos sees in his dreams and the titanic affections and motions of his soul make him rigidly tense until sleep restores his repose once more and the royal and divine element is all by itself, pure and unalloyed. (942b)

And he goes on to argue that the Moon has power over life and death and borders the meadows of Haides. (942c) He then discusses Persephone’s association with the Moon:

Although they give the right names to Demeter and Kore, they are wrong in believing that both are together in the same region. The fact is that the former is in the region of earth and is sovereign over terrestrial things, and the latter is in the moon and mistress of lunar things. She has been called both Kore and Phersephonê, the latter as being a bearer of light and Kore because that is what we call the part of the eye in which is reflected the likeness of him who looks into it as the light of the sun is seen in the moon. The tales told of the wandering and the quest of these goddesses contain the truth spoken covertly, for they long for each other when they are apart and they often embrace in the shadow. However Kore cannot abandon Haides since she is the boundary of Haides, as Homer too has rather well put it in veiled terms, ‘But to Elysium’s plain, the bourne of earth.’ Where the range of the earth’s shadow ends, this he set as the term and boundary of the earth. To this point rises no one who is evil or unclean, but the good are conveyed thither after death and there continue to lead a life most easy to be sure though not blesséd or divine until their second death. (942d-f)

And then Plutarch starts dropping some serious mystery shit:

The reason is that they suppose mind to be somehow part of soul, thus erring no less than those who believe soul to be part of body, for in the same degree as soul is superior to body so is mind better and more divine than soul. The result of soul and body commingled is the irrational or the affective factor, whereas of mind and soul the conjunction produces reason; and of these the former is source of pleasure and pain, the latter of virtue and vice. In the composition of these three factors earth furnishes the body, the moon the soul, and the sun furnishes mind to man for the purpose of his generation even as it furnishes light to the moon herself. As to the death we die, one death reduces man from three factors to two and another reduces him from two to one; and the former takes place in the earth that belongs to Demeter (wherefore “to make an end” is called “to render one’s life to her” and Athenians used in olden times to call the dead “Demetrians”), the latter in the moon that belongs to Phersephonê. Associated with the former is Hermes the terrestrial, with the latter Hermes the celestial. While the goddess here dissociates the soul from the body swiftly and violently, Phersephonê gently and by slow degrees detaches the mind from the soul and has therefore been called “single-born” because the best part of man is “born single” when separated off by her. Each of the two separations naturally occurs in this fashion: All soul, whether without mind or with it, when it has issued from the body is destined to wander in the region between earth and moon but not for an equal time. Unjust and licentious souls pay penalties for their offences; but the good souls must in the gentlest part of the air, which they call “the meadows of Haides,” pass a certain set time sufficient to purge and blow away the pollutions contracted from the body as from an evil odour. Then, as if brought home from banishment abroad, they savour joy most like that of initiates, which attended by glad expectation is mingled with confusion and excitement. For many, even as they are in the act of clinging to the moon, she thrusts off and sweeps away; and some of those souls too that are on the moon they see turning upside down as if sinking again into the deep. Those that have got up, however, and have found a firm footing first go about like victors crowned with wreaths of feathers called wreaths of steadfastness, because in life they had made the irrational or affective element of the soul orderly and tolerably tractable to reason; secondly, in appearance resembling a ray of light but in respect of their nature, which in the upper region is buoyant as it is here in ours, resembling the ether about the moon, they get from it both tension and strength as edged instruments get a temper, for what laxness and diffuseness they still have is strengthened and becomes firm and translucent. In consequence they are nourished by any exhalation that reaches them, and Herakleitos was right in saying: “Souls employ the sense of smell in Haides.” (943b-e)

Which should be read in conjunction with Proklos’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus:

The happy life, far from the roaming of generation, that is desired by those who, in Orpheus, are initiated in Dionysos and Kore and told ‘to cease from the circle and enjoy respite from disgrace.’ (3.296.7)

And the Bacchic Orphic gold leaf from Thurii is particularly evocative:

And I flew out from the hard and deeply-grievous circle, and stepped onto the crown with my swift feet, and slipped into the lap of the Mistress, the Queen of the Underworld. And I stepped out from the crown with my swift feet.

Which, coupled with the feathered crown mentioned by Plutarch, naturally reminds one of Kore’s Siren chorus, the doves of Dionysos and the lunatic John the Baptist.

See what I did there? Circles, man. Fucking circles.

And if you want to get anywhere in the labyrinth you have to accept its inherent dream logic. These laws are in effect because the world as we know it is a strange story woven by a sad girl waiting to be carried off by death:

Orpheus says that the vivific cause of partible natures (i.e. Persephone), while she remained on high, weaving the order of celestials, was a nymph, as being undefiled; and in consequence of this connected with Zeus and abiding in her appropriate manners; but that, proceeding from her proper habitation, she left her webs unfinished, was ravished; having been ravished, was married; and that being married, she generated in order that she might animate things which have an adventitious life. For the unfinished state of her web indicates, I think, that the universe is imperfect or unfinished, as far as to perpetual animals (i.e., the universe would be imperfect if nothing inferior to the celestial gods was produced). Hence Plato says the single creator calls on the many creators to weave together the mortal and immortal natures; after a manner reminding us, that the addition of the mortal genera is the perfection of the textorial life of the universe, and also exciting our recollection of the divine Orphic fable, and affording us interpretative causes of the unfinished webs of Persephone. (Proklos, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus)

And you, too, are dreaming. WAKE UP!!!

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