Don’t miss this week’s chat

This Thursday we will be going to go over the relevant material and putting together a rough template for the Praxidikaia festival which is coming up on the 23rd. This is your chance to have a hand in shaping the Starry Bull tradition.

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Please help

Clicking through the recommendations on Youtube, I ended up at this song:

I have a melancholy and nostalgic attachment to the original because of some stuff that was going on in my life when I first heard it; consequently I found the cover a little flat and lackluster and was about to continue my trip down the rabbit hole when one of the comments caught my eye. I left the song going as I read:

Randy Baker
We spread Floyd’s ashes on the Oceanside pier a while back. Yes, that’s not legal but if you knew Floyd you knew he didn’t march to the legal beat much. A young shirtless marine on a bike rode by with a boom box wired to the handlebars and this song was playing. He saw what was happening (Floyd’s son and daughter were crying) and got off his bike and started to turn the music off out of respect. I met his eyes, shook my head wordlessly and motioned for him to turn it up. He did and then squared his shoulders and began to salute. It was beautiful. Floyd was a veteran of the Korea Conflict – Navy. The wind shifted as we flung Floyd’s dusty ashes and some of him fell between the slats of the pier. A woman handed me her son’s balloon and using the air stream from it I was able to dislodge most of Floyd and got him into the Pacific where he’d fished so many times. The young boy, seeing the marine, began to salute. Pretty soon we all were saluting as the song played out. Floyd would have loved that. RIP you old salt. And thank you, soldier. I never got your name.

By the time I reached the end my cheeks were damp.

Fleeting moments of beauty and connection – that’s all life is. Those moments, they pass through our hands so quickly. Here – and then nothing but memory. I … I don’t want that to happen to Mr. Randi. Please help.

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I have heard you, Listeners.

Hello folks,

I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to answer my list of questions (there’s a lot of thoughtful feedback and some great ideas I’ll be implementing over the next couple months) and I hope more people will get back to me before the September 23rd deadline.

Going through the responses I’ve received thus far, a couple things (which I’ll be discussing more in depth after the Equinox) really stood out as areas to focus on during 2015. In order to address this most effectively we will be putting together three teams, each of which will be given special assignments to work on over a four-month period. Each quarter the teams will either be renewed if there is more work to be done or dissolved and reformed with different tasks if they have met their goals.

The teams will consist of not more than thirteen people, with three to seven being the ideal range. People cannot belong to more than one team at a time in order to foster a proper competitive spirit, though it is perfectly fine to serve in an advisory capacity if one has knowledge or skills pertinent to another team’s aims. Whatever else we may be, we are all loyal members of this thiasos.

Each team will operate semi-autonomously in that they do not need to get my permission to make a decision or act, though I will be working closely with them and using all at my disposal to assist their efforts. Additionally each team will nominate a leader whom I will have weekly meetings with in order to stay apprised of their progress and any needs that may come up for the team.

As the archiboukolos I have final say with regard to anything pertaining to the thiasos; my judgment supersedes that of the team.

Keep in mind that the teams are merely organizing these projects – anyone who wishes may contribute content or otherwise help out.

Working together in this way I feel we can get a hell of a lot done and make the thiasos of the Starry Bull something to really be proud of.

The first three teams, representing the sacred colors of our tradition, will work from the Autumn Equinox to the Winter Solstice and will be arranged as follows:

Black Team: Festival-keepers
Compile a festival calendar for 2015; write-ups and tips on how to celebrate each festival for the website; responsible for promoting/reminding people about upcoming festivals, including on the Facebook page and organizing themed chats.

White Team: Educators
Come up with introductory material for the thiasos; a lexicon; a recommended reading list; a guide to important concepts within the thiasos; blurbs for each of the gods and spirits; information on ritual and other practices; bring in guest lecturers; answer questions on Facebook.

Red team: Companions
Greet new members; help them get settled and find the information they need; check in with others, particularly if they seem to be going through a rough time; put together resources people can consult when in need; come up with fund-raisers, scholarships and other programs to assist members, particularly as we head into the Gathering; lead prayer-circles and weekly rituals to ask for blessings on members of the thiasos and success for the different teams.

If you’re interested in volunteering for one of the teams contact me before September 23rd and we’ll start putting them together.

I look forward to seeing what you guys can accomplish.

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When we support each other our communities grow stronger

The deadline to get your submission in for Óski’s Gift is fast approaching. Odin will be choosing the winner through divination on the Autumn Equinox so all entries must be in three days before then, or Saturday, September 20th for the calendrically challenged.

Óski’s Gift is a scholarship our household is contributing $300 towards twice a year, awarded to people who are doing work on behalf of their gods and communities. All that one has to do to be eligible is send a short (900-1300 word) description of what that work is to Galina at krasskova@gmail.com. Anyone, from any polytheist tradition, can enter. If you would like to contribute money in addition to what we are offering for the scholarship contact Galina.

Please help spread this around on social media. There are lots of folks out there doing amazing stuff who could benefit from a little extra cash. When we support each other our communities grow stronger.

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Leader of vaporous phantasms

As I was putting together my plans for the Melinoeia (which ended up going in a completely different direction than intended, something I generally take to be a sign of effective ritual) I felt a strong push to include mention of the trans dead. I wasn’t really sure why. Considering her origin and functions it didn’t seem inappropriate, particularly in light of how this goddess is revealing herself to members of the thiasos – but is that enough? Particularly when there are other figures associated with our pantheon who have just as much of a claim. And why should I care? It felt a little presumptuous on my part. Sure, they’ve come through in ritual for the Dionysian Dead, our god is so queer he’s straight and gender fluidity seems to have been a part of Bacchic cults in Southern Italy, as we see with Aristodemos Malakos and the far from unbiased Livy – but it’s not my experience. And why this specific push to include them in Melinoë’s birthday celebration?

When I finally got tired of asking such questions of myself I decided to go straight to the goddess and see if I could get her take on things. (This is why folks should be familiar with at least some form of divination, however basic, or know reputable diviners they can take their questions to!) I got answers from her, but they were brief, clipped, unforthcoming. Which got me thinking about how I’ve never had much direct contact with her, unlike a lot of the other gods and spirits of our pantheon, which is kind of surprising considering what a strong presence she’s gaining in the thiasos. I filed that away and began watching a marathon session of spooky films with ghostly girl protagonists. About the sixth or seventh I started noticing a ton of weird synchs. Two in particular stood out: every movie I watched that day contained a severed head and a girl who had bitten off her tongue. The severed head is, of course, the seal of oracular authenticity – when they start showing up it’s generally a good idea to pay close attention because gnosis is about to get dropped on your ass. Bitten off tongue. Quiet goddess. Fuck. I really didn’t want to think about the implications of that.

The next day Galina and I made the trek into the City and had a very pleasant dinner with Edward Butler. With a surreal Bollywood flick playing overhead and copious amounts of Indian beer flowing we discussed the field of pagan studies, gentrification, the launch of polytheist.com, Iamblichean ritual, Plato’s Republic as a dwelling of spirits and lots of other profound shit. Then Edward’s back straightened, a serious look came over his face and with an inspired grave tone he began to hermēneúein. I watched in rapt wonder as golden words spilled out this reserved and humble man’s mouth like honey of Hyblaean mousai, stirring my thoughts to a swarming frenzy. He spoke of the variant translations the scholar Athanassakis had made of the Orphic Hymn to Melinoë and how the gruesome reading of the 1977 edition wasn’t really supported by the mangled Greek text, save with a good deal of rending and contortion. So instead of Zeus tearing the flesh of Persephone in his violent rage Melinoë rises from the wrath of Persephone with a two-formed body.

And then I understood. It’s not just that Melinoë presides over the liminal space between waking and sleep, living and death, sober and insane, dark and light, Ouranian and Chthonic – she has a two-formed body.

And this is why polytheists need to get drunk and theologize together more often.

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Thiasos of the Starry Bull pantheon

Principle gods
Apollo Soranos
Haides
Hermes
Dionysos

Principle goddesses
Aphrodite
Hekate
Melinoë
Persephone

Heroes, divinized mortals, daimones and other spirits
Alexander the Great
Mark Antony
Empedokles
Euthymos
Herakles
John the Baptist
King Herla
Iakchos
Ikarios
Kloster
Mousaios
Melampos
Jim Morrison
Friedrich Nietzsche
Orestes
Orpheus
Pentheus
Phalanthos
Prosymnos
Ptolemy Auletes
Ptolemy Philadelphos
Ptolemy Philopator
Saint Paul of Galatina
Satyrs
Taras
All of our Orphic and Bacchic predecessors.

Heroines, divinized mortals, daimones and other spirits
Aethra
Arachne
Ariadne
Paculla Annia
Charilla
Columbina
Erigone
The Erinyes
Eurydike
Ino-Leukotheia
Kirke
Kleopatra
Medeia
The Moirai
The Mousai
Nymphai
Olympias
Satyrion
Semele
The Seirenes
Thyia
All of our Orphic and Bacchic predecessors.

The Retinue of Dionysos also known as the Court or the Dionysian Dead
Children of Dionysos (Priapos, Deïanira, Telete, etc.)
Lovers of Dionysos (Ampelios, Beroë, Hebe, etc.)
Prophets of Dionysos (Tieresias, the Etruscan Stranger, Walter Otto, etc.)
Neoi Dionysoi (Achilles, Hadrian, the Borgias etc.)
Artists of Dionysos (Rhinthon, Nonnos, Tristano Martinelli, etc.)
Martyrs of Dionysos (King Skyles, Dirke, the Bakchai of Southern Italy, etc.)
The Initiates.
The Orpheotelestai.
The Fervent Devotees.
The Drunk and Insane.
The Hunters.
The Feasting Heroes.
The Strange, the Outcast, and the Forgotten Dead who have been Received.
Daimones.
Nymphai.
Satyroi.
The Sentries.
Things that appear like Titans.
Things that appear like the Harlequinade.
Things that appear like Fairies and Goblins.

Associated divinities
Artemis, Athene, Baubo, Bendis, Demeter, Diktynna, the Dakytloi, Eros, Helios, Hephaistos, Hera, Hybla, Korybantes, Kouretes, Kybele, Kronos, Leto, Nyx, Pan, Poseidon, Priapos, Rheia, Sabazios, Zeus.

The gods, spirits and heroes of Magna Graecia.

And anyone else you want to honor.

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Thiasos of the Starry Bull questionnaire

A while back I mentioned that a large part of my leadership method involved listening. As anyone who has visited the Boukoleon or our Facebook page can attest, the thiasos of the Starry Bull is currently thriving – but there is always room for improvement. So I’d like to hear from you guys. I put together this list of twelve simple questions that will give me a better sense of where to take the group over the next year. Please send your answers to me at sannion@gmail.com by September 23rd.

1. Do you consider yourself an akousmatikos?

1. a) What does that title mean to you?
1. b) For how long have you done so?
1. c) How has this affected your religious practice?

2. Do you plan to pursue a boukolos role? Please explain why or why not.

3. Do you plan to seek initiation into the thiasos’ mysteries? Please explain why or why not.

4. How important to you are the Magna Graecian roots of the thiasos?

5. Can you name all of the gods and spirits of the Starry Bull pantheon?

5. a) How many of them do you honor on a regular basis?
5. b) What other gods and spirits do you honor?

6. Why is Dionysos the central figure of the Starry Bull pantheon?

7. How important is having a thiasos-specific calendar of festivals and holy days for you?

7. a) How many of them do you actually keep and why?
7. b) What other festivals or holy days would you like to see included?

8. Is having a thiasos gathering important to you?

8. a) What would you like to see done at such a gathering?
8. b) Would you prefer an indoor or outdoor event?
8. c) How long would it take you to save up in order to attend a gathering?

9. Does the thiasos fulfill your religious and communal needs?

9. a) Where is there room for improvement?
9. b) What are we getting right?

10. Are there any projects you would like to see the thiasos undertake?

11. What can you contribute to make the thiasos stronger?

12. Anything else you would like to tell the archiboukolos?

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And she will reveal herself to you

A lot of folks have found it difficult to connect with Ariadne. Part of that, I think, is just her nature. Her name means the very, very holy one and Holiness is always remote. (Even in distorted Christian reflections.) Her elusiveness is ultimately what drove Nietzsche insane.

And yet I think there may be another component to this. When people think of Ariadne it is ever and only in relation to Knossos and Naxos. She is the companion of the bull in the labyrinth, the tragic maiden abandoned on the island and the star-crowned bride of the mad god. These are all, indeed, who she is – but there’s also so much more to her. She is mother of Thoas, Oinopion, Staphylos and Keramos; she is the leader of a portion of Dionysos’ hosts in the Argive war, she is related to Circe and Medeia and there are the thousands of years that have passed since she was transformed into a goddess. Do you think she did nothing in all that time?

Look deeper.

Open yourself up to who she is, not who she was at one brief instant in time.

And she will reveal herself to you.

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for your delectation

A couple cool things were posted today at the Boukoleon that would make good reading during the festival of Melinoë’s birth.

Here is Adriana Mejia’s reaction to Melinoe’s origins:

Then Dionysos comes along and recognizes her uniqueness, her regalness. He also recognizes that she is insane at the moment because he is Dionysos, he would know. So after a fight with Haides that nearly injured Melinoe he decides to help her out. So while most likely drunk at the time, he plays, dances, and sings with the girl as he holds out various objects then whispers something in her ear. Why did this strike me? Well, I used to work in an Alzheimer’s wing of an assisted living facility. I worked the overnight shift when people known as Sundowners would be up and not acting the way you would remember your grandparents acting. I found that if you needed to get someone’s attention it was gentler to play along with their fantasy. This wasn’t to difficult and my supervisors were asleep in their beds at this point so who was there to accuse me of being crazy. If the person ate, drank their coffee, or decided to go to bed without a fuss what harm was there?

And Aridela Pantherina talks about the Dionysian Dead, blood and other gifts:

The last sentence in particular jumped out at me. What this says to me is that not only must we be in an altered or frenzied state to interact with the spirits of the dead, but the dead and/or the heroes must be brought into a frenzy as well in order to interact with us. There is a meeting in between, perhaps.

Good, good stuff.

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Happy birthday Melinoë

Tonight we celebrate the nativity of Melinoë, whose sorrowful conception is narrated in the Orphic Hymn devoted to her. I’ll be using two images on my Melinoë shrine, both created by members of the thiasos of the Starry Bull which has attracted quite a number of talented artists.

The first is by my partner Galina:

2826213_orig

And the second is by Adriana Mejia:

adriana's picture

Very different portrayals, and yet in that duality we catch of a glimpse of her complex nature.

There’s not really a set program for how to observe this festival so I’m just going to toss out some suggestions based on what I plan to do.

I’m going to perform a standard offertory rite, giving her:

* Honey
* Beeswax candles
* Figs
* Pomegranate juice
* Mead
* Red wine
* Cakes

I’m just going to pick up some cakes from the local organic grocery store because I’m lazy and not very good in the kitchen, but I’d strongly recommend trying out the recipe Michael Sebastian Lùx came up with for koulourakia if you’ve got any baking skills.

I’ll also be burning some of the “Darkwood” incense cones Dver sent me a while back, made from vetivert, red cedar, sandalwood and patchouli.

I’m then going to read the Orphic Hymn to Melinoë, my hymn to Melinoë, the communal prayer to Melinoë, and the material that’s been shared for her on the Boukoleon site.

As Melinoë is the goddess of the forgotten and outcast dead, I’m going to read off a list of queer and trans dead and invite them to join her feast.

Then I’m going to play games:

And they present a hubbub of books by Musaeus and Orpheus, offspring as they say of Selene and the Muses, according to which they arrange their rites, convincing not only individuals but also cities that liberation and purification from injustice is possible, both during life and after death, by means of sacrifices and enjoyable games to the deceased which free us from the evils of the beyond, whereas something horrible awaits those who have not celebrated sacrifices. (Plato, Republic 365b)

And conclude by trying out the divination system I came up with for her:

Recite the Orphic Hymn to Melinoë. Light the coal on the brazier using the Hymn so that the fire will become holy. Then sprinkle powdered honey, crushed pomegranate seeds and frankincense on the coal. Interpret the smoke as it rises.

After which I’ll watch horror movies featuring spooky little girl ghosts (probably while tripping on ‘shrooms) and before I got to bed I’m going to ask Melinoë to send me a dream – preferably of the nightmare variety.

And that’s what I intend to do – how about you?

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Let’s make the most of it folks.

Polytheist.com is live!

Not only do polytheists now have a place of their own to network, share ideas and read material from some of our top names and rising stars – but I think this is going to end up being an invaluable community resource in a lot of other ways as well. For me one of the things that stands out most is the diversity of voices speaking from a multitude of traditions and perspectives that have been collected here – and keep in mind that this is just the first wave, barely half of the site’s stable of authors. This isn’t just another blog but an exciting experiment in dialogue. One of the reasons I think there has been so much flamewarring over the last couple years is because it’s an opportunity for us to come together across communal lines and talk about issues that impact all of us. Well, what if we did that without controversy fueling everything? Now with this new communal hub we have an opportunity to find out. Let’s make the most of it folks.

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Trip through the Labyrinth mix

Over at Facebook the thiasos is discussing the use of music in ritual, so I decided to put together a compilation of appropriately atmospheric songs. Though they work individually, listened to together they tell the story of the Starry Bull.

Coil – Tainted Love
Einstürzende Neubauten – Sabrina
Johnny Cash – Hurt
Current 93 feat. Antony and the Johnsons – Sleep has his house
Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
Woodkid – Run Boy Run
The Doors – Not to Touch The Earth
Nine Inch Nails – At The Heart Of It All
Hexvessel – I Am The Ritual
Lasher Keen – Psychotropic Cult Of The Oracular Sacrificial Severed Head
Coil – Fire Of The Mind
Dead Can Dance – Summoning Of The Muse
Peter Murphy – Fake Sparkle or Golden Dust?
SORNE – Golden Death Chant
Alexander – Truth
Tristan Allen & Amanda Palmer – János vs Wonderland
Nine Inch Nails – We’re In This Together

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a year with the gods

skull-3

All this talk of death and mysteries got me thinking about my own mortality. Preposterous, I know, since I’m going to live forever – but what if? What if I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to be dead a year from now.

Well, after some serious consideration I came to the conclusion that I’d want to spend the time I’ve got left worshiping the gods, dedicating each and every one of my remaining days to doing something special for them.

And then I thought why the fuck wait for that? There’s nothing stopping me from doing that now. So from September 8th 2014 to September 8th 2015 I’m going to try this little experiment in devotio and y’all are welcome to join me. Besides, who knows – for some of you this could very well be your last year walking the planet. Let’s spend it with the gods – together.

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Just because an experience is real doesn’t make it true

Saw this dude arguing that monism is more spiritually evolved than pragmatic pluralism because he experienced phenomenal reality fade away into non-dualistic awareness during meditation.

Thing is, that’s hardly a rare state to reach. I’ve done it about six or seven times over the years, and a couple of those were even without drugs.

I’ve also experienced this:

Five fiends have been in poor Tom at once: of Lust, as Obidicut; Hobbididance, Prince of Dumbness; Mahu, of Stealing; Modo, of Murder. Flubbertigibbet, of Mopping and Mowing. So many giants and demons and always room for more in poor Tom’s head. (Grant Morrison, The Invisibles Book One)

And this:

The Joker’s a special case. Some of us feel that he may be beyond treatment. In fact, we’re not even sure if he can be properly defined as insane. His latest claim is that he’s possessed by Baron Ghede, the Voodoo loa. We’re beginning to think it may be a neurological disorder, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception. More suited to life at the end of the twentieth century. Unlike you and I the Joker seems to have no control over the sensory information he’s receiving from the outside world. He can only cope with the chaotic barrage of input by going with the flow. That’s why sometimes he’s a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day. He sees himself as the Lord of Misrule, and the world as a theatre of the absurd. (Grant Morrison, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth)

Consciousness is incredibly elastic.

And if you’re going to start meddling with your perceptions – poking and prodding and stretching reality into strange and uncomfortable shapes – the first thing you better learn is some discernment. Test those fucking spirits, man:

Likewise the famous Iamblichos, as I have handed down in my account of his life, when a certain Egyptian invoked Apollo, and to the great amazement of those who saw the vision Apollo came, said, “My friends, cease to wonder; this is only the ghost of a gladiator.” So great a difference does it make whether one beholds a thing with the intelligence or with the deceitful eyes of the flesh. (Eunapios, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists)

Question everything, especially your perceptions, and don’t rush to any conclusions based on your experiences. Just because an experience is real doesn’t make it true.

You think that state of oneness is the pinnacle, but what if it’s actually the bottom, the most rudimentary of gates one can pass through?

What if it’s not something to be celebrated but a mental projection in need of overcoming in order to be able to apprehend the eternal forms of the world?

For all you know it could be an illusionary snare placed there by malevolent archontic daimones to capture unwary mystics, magicians or shamans, the web of māyā as the Indians would say. While you’re blissing out on the idea that you’re the tree and the hippie hugging the tree a tremendous spider with a titanic hunger is creeping up on you, grinning like a clown.

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Lord of the Labyrinth

This conversation got me thinking about this passage from Origen:

And accordingly he likens us Christians to those who in the Bacchic mysteries introduce phantoms and objects of terror. (Contra Celsum 4.10)

Which in turn got me thinking about Leviathan and labyrinths:

The god I serve in this world and yours. The god of flesh, hunger and desire. My god, Leviathan! Lord of the Labyrinth! (Hellbound: Hellraiser II)

Which finally got me thinking about a conversation I’d had a while back.

Circles.

Courtney wrote the following in response to my post It’s important to prepare yourself:

When I tried to describe this to my husband, he said it sounded less like a religious ritual and more like a stupid frat boy prank. He also said he doesn’t understand how being afraid has anything to do with liberation. Would you care to comment on this?

Great question!

Objectively there is no difference whatsoever between the initiation rite I described and a stupid frat boy prank.

Subjectively, however, they are worlds apart.

Ever go through something with a friend and afterwards as you’re comparing notes it slowly starts to sink in that your accounts don’t quite line up? How can you recall the same sequence of events so differently? It’s because what we bring to an encounter determines what we take away from it. Our brains are wired to find associative patterns in the constant barrage of random phenomena that makes up life and this in turn helps us navigate through our world. A lot of things influence how we form those patterns but one of the strongest is culture, particularly the stories that shape and express a culture. These stories not only inform our values and behavior but are the very substance out of which our choices are made.

A person who is raised from infancy surrounded by a vital living tradition where the stories are passed down from generation to generation and shared by the whole community, stories so well known that a person need only make the slightest allusion for the rest of it to rise up from the well of memory is going to see and interact with his surroundings in a way that someone reared with different stories or no stories at all simply would not.

As an example – what would you say if I invited you to attend a Thyestean feast?

If you know your Classics and aren’t a cannibal you’re probably going to turn me down but if not, boy are you in for a surprise!

Even more relevantly, through their stories people have recorded what it’s like to encounter gods and spirits, giving us a sense of these beings’ personalities and behaviors, how we can recognize and communicate with them, the etiquette of such interactions, etc. so that we can use all of this as a framework during our own encounters and afterwards when we try to make sense of the experience.

As I showed in a later post each step I described was taken from ancient accounts of the enthronismos ceremony and the mythology associated with it. If this information is in the person’s head while those things are happening to them each act will take on special significance causing them to respond to the stress triggers radically differently from someone who went into it with a blank slate. Having personally gone through it will also change their relationship to that material – it will take on a new life within them: they will know that the myths are real because they have lived them after a fashion, which is going to spill out into how they interpret everything that happens to them afterwards.

As for the second part of Courtney’s husband’s question – I don’t think liberation is possible without the involvement of fear.

Everything in our hi tech modern secular capitalist culture seems devised to make us numb, apathetic and disconnected – disconnected not just from the gods and spirits and the world and other people, but from ourselves and especially our physical bodies and our emotions. There are folks clamped so tight that they’ve never danced or screamed in their life. Every authentic impulse within them has been deeply, deeply repressed.

Fear has a way of cutting through all the stifling walls of ego and societal pressure to reveal us at our most vulnerable, primal core. Once the crack appears all that pent-up toxic shit can spill forth leaving room for the good stuff to take its place.

Furthermore, fear is always present when we approach the threshold of liberation. Fear of what other people will say, fear of all the things we risk losing, fear that we’re making a horrible, irredeemable mistake and countless other fears swarm about us in that decisive moment.

You embrace your fear or you pass through it and the choice you make is the person you become.

But you never really know who you are until you’ve been pushed to your limits – and beyond.

Dionysos exists at the extremes – we must be willing to travel far to find him.

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Orphic rap battle

Edward Butler got it going with this:

This nonindifference of the world also underlies the depictions of the “mystic nursing” of animals. There, however, the bacchant provides milk for a soul depicted as a young wild animal. This suggests both that having been enlightened, one becomes a light to others, and also that one brings into the light the undeveloped parts of oneself. Thus also, the descriptions of the initiate as “limpid” are not mere enthusiasm: the initiate is like a new Phanês.

To which I replied:

The universe in which these myths play out is a fundamentally tragic one – even the gods experience vicissitudes, so man has no hope of escaping them. Rather, we must use the strife we will inevitably face to perfect ourselves and ennoble our spirits. We must pass through grief into joy, letting it burn away all that is false and useless within us – you cannot reach the one but through the other. We must find the divine in the monstrous, the profane in the holy, we must be destroyed in order to know the full measure of life – only when we are on the edge, with nothing left to lose and no thought for what we might gain, are we truly free, truly alive. Heroic philosophy is what Orpheus taught the Greeks; how to suffer well and look forward to death.

And now Mr. VI has thrown down with this:

More than simple apophenia, the recognition of communication with the kosmos as a literal coming-together and breaking-apart serves as a recognition. Crowley’s Oath of the Abyss is a wilful engagement with and participation with the kosmos – the polar reality of the Klagseian Cosmogonic Eros; engendered by Aphrodite-as-Strife shows that goddess as truly found to be Justice, whom the initiate must ‘pass’ to discover the goddess who dwells in the Halls of Night. Here, one might argue that the subterranean goddess demands ‘castration’ as seen in the rite of Cybele – the severing of the mortal generative functions not out of aescetism but by annhilation of that same reality to embrace once again the Mystery. Of course, the living-dead initiate returns, meaning that their generative functions are now daimonic – the violation of gender signifiers directly attacking the categorisation of mortality. The head of prophecy has been severed – that is to say the genitals have been repurposed. The polar eroticism is now not limited to lust leading to satiation but the dionsyaic bacchic frenzy. The symbolism of the severed head is not merely a sign – rather the severed head is, to borrow a term, a magic(k)al machine full of rhizomatic, poetic polyvalenceit itself is a site of meaning, an initiator  which opens the initiate allowing them first to perceive the unending flow of the unhealed wound, which is only resolved through application of what we could conceivably call the grail; bringing to mind the symbolism of the spear of destiny, the stone, cup and dish. In daimonic reality, identity does not exist per se - Is-ness dissolves and is repleaced by seems-to-be. Only by recognition of the seeming-of-phenomena can we fall into participation with the daimonic. Variety and difference are the mark of that reality – synchronicity is remembering. As a child of earth and starry heaven the initiate is elevated in death – all heroes are dead after all, coming back to intercede and connect; familiar faces as-masks in which we may see our own resemblance and recognise our own nature as mortal daimonic immortals. The severed head-skull as bringer of death-awareness to consciousness, and attendant impressions on the psycho-sexual structures of the initiate thusly removes and yet also enhances polarity.

Got anything to add, yo?

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How to get started with Dionysos

A couple people recently wrote me with this question so I’m going to share something that seemed to help a lot of folks in the Dionysian devotion class I taught a while back.

perfectwine

If you have a dedicated shrine to Dionysos, dismantle it. If you don’t then don’t make one yet. This is necessary because I want everyone to start from scratch with Dionysos for this course.

It’s so easy to get locked into these limited conceptions of who the gods are and what they want of us, especially when we’re largely going by what others have said. Forget everything you’ve read in the myths or in academic books or that you’ve heard from friends and people on the internet. Just as importantly forget all of the experiences and insights you yourself may have had with Dionysos up to now.

This suggestion may surprise some but the reason that I’m asking you to do so is because Dionysos is an incredibly fluid deity. Things are constantly changing with him and stuff that may have worked perfectly for you in the past can stop doing so without a moment’s notice. We need to know how to handle it when he springs something like that on us – and this experiment is a good way to get that grounding once more. So for the duration of this exercise I want you to try to approach Dionysos with a blank slate, as if you’re learning everything about him now for the first time.

All that you know for sure is that there is this god and his name is Dionysos and you want to get to know him better. Full stop.

After the experiment is over you can go right back and pick up all of that history and knowledge and prior experience if you need to. But for now empty yourself of all expectations and associations you might have of him.

Once you’ve taken apart your shrine – or not put one up! – I want you to do a simple ritual, which you’ll be repeating every day for the next week. Pour out a glass of wine or grape juice for Dionysos, light a candle or tea-light and say, “For you, Dionysos.”

Nothing more elaborate than that.

Then for the next thirteen minutes sit with him. Open yourself up and listen. He may speak to you directly through words or through thoughts and images or you may find your emotional state changing or nothing at all could happen. The message isn’t as important as being open and sharing your time and space and resources with him.

After the thirteen minutes are up transition into whatever you feel like doing – dancing, singing, writing or something else creative, deeper and more focused meditation, reading or watching something, go for a walk outdoors or stay home and take a nap. Whatever you feel drawn to doing, you should do it!

And any impressions you get – during the ritual or in the downtime afterwards – should be written in a notebook, no matter how random and incomprehensible they may seem. But don’t expect that you’ll get such impressions – if they come let them come naturally.

Secondly, keep this notebook by your bed while you sleep and write down everything you can remember upon waking.

ONCE THE WEEK IS UP

There are two essentials as far as Dionysos is concerned – he is the god of the vine and the god of masks. Everything else naturally follows from these though Dionysos possesses near infinite complexity and variation.

Dionysos is not simply the god of the vine in the sense that he likes grapes and green growing things and what we do with them – he is the vine. When you drink wine you are literally taking the god into yourself and feeling the effects of him moving through you. That also means that the life-cycle of this plant is his life-cycle. Anyone who is familiar with agriculture and the production of wine knows that the vine requires a great deal of tendance from man. It’s not just a case of planting some seeds and then sitting back to wait for the grapes to ripen on the vine. No, we have to prune the branches and cut off excess vegetation so that what remains will be stronger and bear better fruit – then this has to be fed and nurtured and protected throughout its growing cycle, which often spans two or three years. Then you have to gather the grapes, crush them and prepare them and store them until they reach maturation – then and only then will you have wine to drink.

This past week was the first step in that process – cutting everything back to the absolute basics, just him and you and the sharing of your time and resources, without any history, preconceived notions or external influence.

As many of you experienced THIS IS FUCKING HARD. It’s scary and painful to let things go – especially good things that don’t necessarily seem broken. It’s also difficult to root out external influences, but that’s vital if you’re going to have a solid devotional relationship with him. Where do you get your ideas from? Often we don’t even know – we just pick this stuff up as we stumble along in life. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that – but it can also hold us back, create these unrealistic expectations in us as we compare our experiences and insights unfavorably to those of others. He may speak to us but we discount it because it doesn’t sound like what that guy over there is doing or it’s not necessarily something we’ve read about before.

Which brings us to our second point – Dionysos is the god of masks. He has something like 200 separate forms, each with its own associations, images, functions and epithets. And that’s just drawing from the historical record! No one deals simply with Dionysos. He’s too immense to comprehend or engage with in his entirety. Whether we’re aware of it or not Dionysos always comes to us wearing specific masks – sometimes he’ll wear more than one mask or shift between them over the course of our time with him. Not only do these masks determine how we respond to him, but how he interacts with us – and sometimes one mask is in complete opposition to another as we find at Naxos where Dionysos as Lusios was hailed to counteract the effects of Dionysos as Bakcheios.

And that’s why I had you perform the exercise. As you were clearing away the old and establishing your own personal connection to him I encouraged you to be open and listen to him so that he could reveal to you the form of himself that he wants you to engage with through the duration of this course – and perhaps afterwards.

During the second week we’re going to examine your experiences and sift through them for clues as to the form of Dionysos that you’re going to be working with and then later on we’re going to create new shrines honoring this particular aspect as opposed to the more general and all-inclusive Dionysos shrines that most of us start off making. By having this specificity you’ll gain a clearer sense of what he wants of you, what sort of relationship you’ll be forging with him and you’ll also receive more direct and accurate results in your worship.

So go back through your notes from the ritual and any dreams you may have recorded and see what stands out. Are there specific colors, animals, imagery, concepts, activities or even just vague impressions you got? Make a list of these and then we’ll discuss them together and begin matching them up through research. Feel free to ask the class to go over your stuff too (it’s always handy to have a second set of eyes to catch things we might be too close to the subject to pick up) but in the end it’s what you perceive in your experiences that will matter most, especially since the language he uses with us if often highly and deeply personal. Once you’ve come up with your list of keywords I’ll make recommendations and give pointers for further research so you can see if that resonates and gives you any indication of what you’re supposed to do. This phase may actually take longer than a week so don’t worry.
ivory%20mask

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All the good stuff is real but isn’t, myself included.

The gold tablet from Pelinna reads:

Now you have died and now you have been born, thrice blessed one, on this very day. Say to Persephone that Bakchios himself freed you. A bull you rushed to milk. Quickly, you rushed to milk. A ram you fell into milk. You have wine as your fortunate honor. And rites await you beneath the earth, just as the other blessed ones.

The gold tablet from Thurii reads:

Rejoice at the experience! This you have never before experienced. You have become divine instead of mortal. You have fallen as a kid into milk. Hail, hail, as you travel on the right, through the Holy Meadow and Groves of Persephone.

Edward Butler offers a brilliant interpretation of this recurring motif:

The Orphic slogan, “A kid, I fell into milk”: I believe this to be equivalent in a certain respect to part of Crowley’s Oath of the Abyss; namely, the part about “interpreting every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul.” To say “A kid, I fell into milk” is to say that I was thrown into a world not of my making, but found it was made of meaning. [...] It is not just a question, then, of interpreting one’s own life, but that one becomes a “phenomenon” to be interpreted by others. This is what a hero is, I think, a mortal having become such a site of meaning.

Because I’m strange that way, his post reminded me of something Lana Del Rey once said:

I was a singer, not a very popular one, who once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet- but upon an unfortunate series of events saw those dreams dashed and divided like a million stars in the night sky that I wished on over and over again- sparkling and broken. But I really didn’t mind because I knew that it takes getting everything you ever wanted and then losing it to know what true freedom is. When the people I used to know found out what I had been doing, how I had been living- they asked me why. But there’s no use in talking to people who have a home, they have no idea what its like to seek safety in other people, for home to be wherever you lay your head. I was always an unusual girl, my mother told me that I had a chameleon soul. No moral compass pointing me due north, no fixed personality. Just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide as wavering as the ocean. And if I said that I didn’t plan for it to turn out this way I’d be lying- because I was born to be the other woman. I belonged to no one- who belonged to everyone, who had nothing- who wanted everything with a fire for every experience and an obsession for freedom that terrified me to the point that I couldn’t even talk about- and pushed me to a nomadic point of madness that both dazzled and dizzied me. Every night I used to pray that I’d find my people- and finally I did- on the open road. We have nothing to lose, nothing to gain, nothing we desired anymore- except to make our lives into a work of art.

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Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well

orpheus-pierre-amedee-marcel-beronneau

The founder of our tradition enters the written record in the 6th century before the common era through the Magna Graecian poet Ibykos of Rhegion: Onomaklyton Orphēn, he wrote, “name-famous Orpheus.”

His famous name tells you everything about him; it comes from the PIE root *orbh-, “to put asunder, separate” and is related to orphne, “darkness” and orphanos, “parentless.” This is not a happy name. Noel Cobb finds it semantically connected to goao, “to lament, sing wildly, cast a spell thus uniting his seemingly disparate roles as disappointed lover, transgressive musician and mystery-priest into a single lexical whole.”

The myths that Orpheus sang into being were full of loss and suffering:

When driven by the goad of Kings Bakchos and Apollon, I described their terrible shafts, and likewise I disclosed the cure for feeble mortal bodies and the Great Rites to initiates. Truly, above all I disclosed the stern inevitability of ancient Chaos, and Time, who in his boundless coils, produced Aether, and the twofold, beautiful, and noble Eros, whom the younger men call Phanes, celebrated parent of eternal Night, because he himself first manifested. Then, I sang of the race of powerful Brimo, and the destructive acts of the giants, who spilled their gloomy seed from the sky begetting the men of old, whence came forth mortal stock, which resides throughout the boundless world. And I sang of the service of Zeus, and of the cult of the Mother and how wandering in the Cybelean mountains she conceived the girl Persephone by the unconquerable son of Kronos, and of the renowned tearing of Kasmilos by Herakles, and of the sacred oath of Idaios, and of the immense oak of the Korybantes, and of the wanderings of Demeter, her great sorrow for Persephone, and her lawgiving. And also I sang of the splendid gift of the Kabeiroi, and the silent oracles of Night about Lord Bakchos, and of the sea of Samothrace and of Cyprus, and of the love of Aphrodite for Adonis. And I sang of the rites of Praxidike and the mountain nights of Athela, and of the lamentations of Egypt, and of the holy offerings to Osiris. And also I taught the multitudinous ways prophesying: from the motion of wild birds and from the positions of entrails; how to receive the prophetic dreams that pierce the mind in sleep, and the interpretation of signs and omens and what the motion of the stars means. I taught atonement that brings great happiness for mortals; and how to supplicate the gods and give offerings to the dead. And I described that which I gained by sight and thought when on the dark way of entering Haides via Taenaron, relying on my cithara, through the love of my wife. And I described the sacred test of the Egyptians in Memphis that is used to convey prophesy, and the sacred city of Apis, which is surrounded by the river Nile. (Proem of the Orphic Argonautika)

The universe in which these myths play out is a fundamentally tragic one – even the gods experience vicissitudes, so man has no hope of escaping them. Rather, we must use the strife we will inevitably face to perfect ourselves and ennoble our spirits. We must pass through grief into joy, letting it burn away all that is false and useless within us – you cannot reach the one but through the other. We must find the divine in the monstrous, the profane in the holy, we must be destroyed in order to know the full measure of life – only when we are on the edge, with nothing left to lose and no thought for what we might gain, are we truly free, truly alive. Heroic philosophy is what Orpheus taught the Greeks; how to suffer well and look forward to death.

The Spartan king Leotychidas wished to be initiated into the mysteries until Philip the Orpheotelest came to oversee the rites. The man was gaunt, half-mad eyes red from tears, hair unkempt, smeared with ashes and wearing a simple white linen garment. “Your appearance,” the king said, “makes me wonder if these ceremonies you’re peddling bring any benefit at all.” Philip proceeded to explain the pleasures that awaited initiates on the other side, growing ever more florid and rapturous as he went on. Finally Leotychidas interjected, “You fool! If such abundant riches are yours why don’t you speedily kill yourself instead of prolonging your misery here?” Philip laughed and said, “What would you think of a feast where the host set before you a table containing only olives?” And Leotychidas replied, “Such fare would be too simple even by Spartan standards.” Philip answered him, “I have not yet had my fill of this world’s delicacies.”

This parable, which appears slightly modified in the Apophthegmata Laconica and recurs in several forms at various places in Plutarch’s corpus, reminds me of these passages from The Apocryphon of James:

Then Peter answered: “Lord, three times you have said to us ‘Become full’, but we are full.”
The Lord answered and said: “Therefore I say unto you, become full, in order that you may not be diminished. Those who are diminished, however, will not be saved. For fullness is good and diminution is bad.
[...]
Do you not desire, then, to be filled? And is your heart drunk? Be ashamed should you desire to be sober! And now, waking or sleeping, remember that you have seen the Son of Man. Woe to those who have seen the Son of Man! Blessed are those who have not seen the Man, and who have not consorted with him, and who have not spoken with him, and who have not listened to anything from him. Yours is life! Know, therefore, that the Son of Man healed you when you were ill, in order that you might reign. Yours is the Kingdom of God! Therefore I say to you, become full and leave no place within you empty, since the Coming One is able to mock you.
[...]
Do you dare to spare the flesh, you for whom the spirit is an encircling wall? If you contemplate the world, how long it is before you and also how long it is after you, you will find that your life is one single day and your sufferings, one single hour. Scorn death, therefore, and take concern for life. Remember my cross and my death and you will live.

And I answered and said to him: “Lord, do not mention to us the cross and the death, for they are far from you.” The Lord answered and said: “Truly I say to you, none will be saved unless they believe in my cross. But those who have believed in my cross, theirs is the Kingdom of God. Therefore, become seekers for death, just as the dead who seek for life, for that which they seek is revealed to them. And what is there to concern them? When you turn yourselves towards death, it will make known to you election. In truth I say to you, none of those who are afraid of death will be saved. For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have put themselves to death. Become better than I; make yourselves like the son of the Holy Spirit.”

Then I questioned him: “Lord how may we prophesy to those who ask us to prophesy to them? For there are many who ask us and who look to us to hear an oracle from us.”
The Lord answered and said: “Do you not know that the head of prophecy was cut off?”
And I said: “Lord, it is not possible to remove the head of prophecy, is it?”
The Lord said to me: “When you come to know what ‘head’ is, and that prophecy issues from the head, then understand what is the meaning of ‘Its head was removed’. I first spoke with you in parables, and you did not understand. Now, in turn, I speak with you openly, and you do not perceive. But it is you who were to me a parable in parables.

Or as the Olbian prophets of Orpheus once put it: βίος. θάνατος. βίος. ἀλήθεια. Διόνυσος. Life. Death. Life. Truth [Loss of Forgetfulness]. Dionysos.

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You guys are fucking amazing

In less than a day you’ve already raised over $800 to Help Randi Get Well. Wow. Now that’s community!

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