The elements of Tartaros

Damascius, Commentary on Plato’s Phaedo 2.145
The four rivers are the four elements in Tartaros: the Okeanos is water, the Kokytos or Stygius earth, the Pyriphlegethon fire, the Acheron air. Opposite to Pyriphlegethon is the Stygius (hot against cold), opposite the Oceanus is the Acheron (water against air); hence Orpheus calls Lake Acheron Lake Aeria.

Porphyry, ad Gaurum 2.2.9
And here Numenius and the interpreters of the hidden sense of Pythagoras understand as semen the river Ameles in Plato and Styx in Hesiod and in the Orphics.

Plato, Republic 620e-621a
And then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity. And after it had passed through that, when the others also had passed, they all journeyed to the Plain of Oblivion, through a terrible and stifling heat, for it was bare of trees and all plants, and there they camped at eventide by the River of Fortetfulness, whose waters no vessel can contain. They were all required to drink a measure of the water, and those who were not saved by their good sense drank more than the measure, and each one as he drank forgot all things.

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Pray for the ancestors on Il Giorno dei Morti

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

Plato, Meno 81a
There were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one’s life in the utmost holiness. ‘For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time men call them sainted heroes.’

Plato, Republic 2.364a–365b
But the most astounding of all these arguments concerns what they have to say about the gods and virtue. They say that the gods, too, assign misfortune and a bad life to many good people, and the opposite fate to their opposites. Begging priests and prophets frequent the doors of the rich and persuade them that they possess a god-given power founded on sacrifices and incantations. If the rich person or any of his ancestors has committed an injustice, they can fix it with pleasant things and feasts. Moreover, if he wishes to injure some enemy, then, at little expense, he’ll be able to harm just and unjust alike, for by means of spells and enchantments they can persuade the gods to serve them. 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.

Cardinal Wiseman, Lecture XI
Sweet is the consolation of the dying man, who, conscious of imperfection, believes that there are others to make intercession for him, when his own time for merit has expired; soothing to the afflicted survivors the thought that they possess powerful means of relieving their friend. In the first moments of grief, this sentiment will often overpower religious prejudice, cast down the unbeliever on his knees beside the remains of his friend and snatch from him an unconscious prayer for rest; it is an impulse of nature which for the moment, aided by the analogies of revealed truth, seizes at once upon this consoling belief. But it is only a flitting and melancholy light, while the Catholic feeling, cheering though with solemn dimness, resembles the unfailing lamp, which the piety of the ancients is said to have hung before the sepulchres of their dead.

II Maccabees 12: 43-46
And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15
Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation. The Lord hath wrought great glory through his magnificence from the beginning. Such as have borne rule in their dominions, men of great power, and endued with their wisdom, shewing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, And ruling over the present people, and by the strength of wisdom instructing the people in most holy words. Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, and published canticles of the scriptures. Rich men in virtue, studying beautifulness: living at peace in their houses. All these have gained glory in their generations, and were praised in their days. They that were born of them have left a name behind them, that their praises might be related: And there are some, of whom there is no memorial: who are perished, as if they had never been: and are become as if they had never been born, and their children with them. But these were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed: Good things continue with their seed, Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever: their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise.

Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Commemoration of All Souls
And Peter, abbot of Cluny, saith that there was a priest that sung every day Mass of requiem for all Christian souls, and hereof he was accused to the bishop, and was suspended therefor of his office. And as the bishop went on a day of great solemnity in the churchyard, all the dead arose up against him, saying: This bishop giveth to us no Mass, and yet he hath taken away our priest from us, now he shall be certain but if he amend he shall die. And then the bishop assailed the priest, and sang himself gladly for them that were passed out of this world. And so it appeareth that the prayers of living people be profitable to them that be departed, by this that the chanter of Paris rehearseth. There was a man that always as he passed through the churchyard he said De Profundis for all Christian souls. And on a time he was beset with his enemies, so that for succour he leapt into the churchyard. And they followed for to have slain him, and anon all the dead bodies arose, and each held such an instrument in his hand that they defended him that prayed for them, and chased away his enemies, putting them in great fear.

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more search term poetry

solomon declares that it is better to go into the house of mourning than to enter the house of vines
may it be your will, lord our god and god of our forefathers, that just as i have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah
are vines connected to the persephone myth
who was persephone blended with to become a fertility figure and daughter to hybla?
dionysus seduced erigone becoming a grape
aphrodite eating a pomegranate
chambers of her who conceived me
buxom handmaiden
holding a severed head
rotten meat fresh fruit broken doll
nightingale nest on Acheron river
souls in purgatory
cronus eating his children
bone casting divination
philsophical head for marcus Antonius
etruscan pirates were attracted by dionysus’ purple dress
caesar walking down from the throne
hera being hung from the heavens
why are women so deceitful
polytheist contemplatives
priests in robes, or simply the “effeminacy” of some men…??
female deforestation
girl spanking girl of marriage
was aphrodite ever poured out of a cup
you can not denie what you are, the gods will punish you for it
cock reverence
labia worship
orgiastic men
aghori hair
“the grieving god” philosphophy
marcus antonius choosing wine
he makes me wet
as a hound chasing a fawn
how to draw cool things on your hand
what is the name of the “son of oiagros”
mean black wolf
paintings of the commedia dell’arte

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I understand that he meant it as a criticism of the gods and sacrifice, but …

331920_v1
Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks Book II
They beset human life after the manner of flatterers, allured by the sacrificial smoke. The daemons themselves admit this gluttony of theirs, when they say,

Wine and odorous steam; for that we receive as our portion. [Homer, Iliad 4.49]

If Egyptian gods, such as cats and weasels, were to be endowed with speech, what other cry are they likely to give forth than this from Homer’s poems, proclaiming a love for savoury odours and cookery?

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miasma breeds malaise

purity-ring-2012-608x420

Although I have posted extensively on the topic of miasma (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to name just a few) I was asked to provide a succinct definition of the concept. Well, here goes – though keep in mind that this is off the cuff and the product of sleep deprivation. If you want a serious analysis check out Robert Parker’s Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion.

Miasma is a semi-corporeal substance which collects along the margins of life and is easily transferable – essentially an invisible sticky film of mortality. It can arise from within us, from our thoughts and activities or we can “catch” it by coming into contact with others, as well as objects and places that are coated with it. It is a morally neutral substance and should not be conflated with harmatia or the Christian concept of sin. Indeed many of the things that transmit it – birth, sex, death, intense emotional and psychological states – are not only natural and necessary parts of life, but seen as social goods in their own right. Miasma is an issue because it is contrary to hagne or holiness, meaning that portion of the divine which is remote from us. Too much miasma negatively impacts our perception and health. Suppose you covered your body from head to toe in an adhesive tar and then took a stroll through a lovely park and the winding streets of your city. By the time you reached home how much stuff do you think you’d have picked up, stuff that would normally have just floated past you? That’s exactly what it’s like when you’re in a state of miasma and when enough of it builds up you often find yourself feeling dull, sluggish, apathetic, disconnected, depressed and generally ill even if you don’t have definite symptoms. More succinctly, miasma breeds malaise. It is not life, but the byproduct of life and for this reason it is opposed to purity; the divine flows, but miasma does not. Being impermeable it cuts us off from the gods and the things associated with them. Not only for what it does to us, but because it is so highly contagious the responsible thing to do is be aware of your state of purity and take regular steps to cleanse and remove miasma from yourself.

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Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

Erised

As I mentioned a while back, one of the reasons that I don’t celebrate Christopher Columbus day is because I don’t really care for the first couple Harry Potter flicks. However, this theory has me reevaluating my stance on them:

The entire Harry Potter series is an extended metaphor about a boy with severe mental illness, suffering from delusions. Everything depicted in the movie can be interpreted as attempts to cope with the harsh realities of his confinement in a mental institution. Every major event in the books is a fantasy/delusional version of the experiences that a child would encounter in the course of being institutionalized and forcibly treated for mental illness.

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Hey Northeast folk!

Who’s coming to NYRDCON?

for one day in November, diviners from a plethora of traditions will gather in Fishkill, NY to discuss their art, network, exchange knowledge, and learn new techniques. There will be a day of workshops and round-table discussions on a variety of topics of interest to diviners. At this conference, we will be discussing how to restore the position of divination as a sacred art within our traditions. We will also be looking at the difference between diviners and oracles, how to work cleanly as a diviner, ethics, best practices, trouble shooting, how to ensure accuracy, self care, and more. The conference is open to diviners at all levels, from experienced to raw beginners.

Be sure to check out the line-up. We’ve got some awesome presenters!

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Let’s show these scrooges what polytheists are made of

They criticize our generosity and support of our own – so let’s do more of it!

The sister of a member of our community is in need:

Back in March of this year my husband found me in the middle of the night having a seizure. He called 911 and I was rushed the ER. There they took a CT scan and found a mass on my brain. They rushed me to CPMC in SF where I had MRIs and surgery the very next day without delay. I had a large tumor on the right side of my brain pushing on my life side.

She’s trying to raise $12k. You can donate here.

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Fuck you Rhyd Wildermuth! Fuck you for trying to do something amazing with your life!

Polytheist author and tireless social activist Rhyd Wildermuth orchestrated a successful fundraising campaign to heed the call of the goddess Arianrhod and now he’s getting a lot of flak from folks in the community.

Linguliformean writes:

Does anyone else feel a certain unease at the way it has become more common for people to turn to the various on-line donations websites to pay for stuff? Interfaith events, trips to Newgrange, attending conferences and now funeral expenses…aren’t these things we should pay for ourself? If i cant afford to send myself to a cool sounding conference I don’t go, I don’t start asking other people to pay for it especially if they aren’t actually getting anything for their money. Within a small and closer knit pagan community I can see how chipping in to help your friends and ‘relatives’ would work but the wider appeal to the pagan public at large for (sometimes) large amounts of money to get stuff done seems to jar with me.

[Redacted] writes:

I hate that crowd funding sites make people think that it’s OK to ask the world to pay for things that you should be saving for yourself. Someone I know is calling a trip to Europe a pilgrimage and getting people to pay his way. I’m bothered by the asking, especially because I save for years for such things. It’s an ugly characteristic of entitlement when you think people should just give you things.

Cat Chapin-Bishop writes:

And while I have supported a number of these appeals, and I see their usefulness, I also share Linguliformean’s concern–or at least, I have a concern of my own. I fear that relying on online fund raising to support our leaders and our infrastructure actually makes it hard to set financial priorities rationally. By which I most assuredly do not mean that it’s “irrational” to support people after a tragedy. I do, however, think that we risk a situation where it’s easier for a well-known Pagan public figure to get expenses covered for a trip to a historic site of early pagan worship than it might be for a less well-known Pagan, who may have done yeoman service on a local level, to get very basic emergency needs met.

Kenofken writes:

Everybody wants to have programs, and buildings and events. Everybody wants to be a full-time teacher or priestess or facilitator or author, or autodidactic scholar, or poet, or bard or eco-activist or interfaith ambassador (we seem to have a whole aspiring State Department these days). That’s great, but no one seems to have a financial plan for how to make that work other than the constant appeal to that mythical race of benefactors called “somebody” or “the community.” At any given time, and even in much more flush times, there are a lot of outstretched hands.

You know what I have to say about this? Nothing. I’ll let Amanda Palmer speak for me:

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That’s constructive

Sam Webster feels you’re an idiot if you don’t get on board with the pan-pagan agenda.

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Speaking of insane and immoral spirits …

VARANASI_JOEY_L_004

I was looking over this collection of sources on Dionysian thunder and lightning I compiled when something stood out for me:

 I call upon you, author of all creation who spread your own wings over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all things together by your power, firstborn, founder of the universe, golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you carry off every living thing without growing weary of torturing it, rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom men dare beyond what is fitting and take refuge in your light which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torch-carrier, master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine, dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name: AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing, night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA. (PGM IV.1716-1870)

In the string of voces magicae do you notice the one next to Erekisithphe (which is likely a corruption of Erikipaios)?

ARARACHARARA

That almost seems to be a combination of ara (curse) and Arachne.

tumblr_mkl6b4PkUc1qia0lqo1_500

Now, what makes this especially interesting is that this phrase appears elsewhere in the PGM as well as in the Testament of Solomon:

And there came before my face thirty-six spirits, their heads shapeless like dogs, but in themselves they were human in form; with faces of asses, faces of oxen, and faces of birds. And I Solomon, on hearing and seeing them, wondered, and I asked them and said: “Who are you?”

[...]

The twenty-fifth said: “I am called Anatreth, and I rend burnings and fevers into the entrails. But if I hear: ‘Arara, Charara,’ instantly do I retreat.”

Which should bring to mind the symptoms of tarantism, as described by Ernesto De Martino:

… falling to the ground, a feeling of prostration, anguish, a state of psychomotor agitation with a beclouding of the sensory apparatus, difficulty in remaining standing, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting, various paraesthesia and muscular pains, a heightening of sexual desire.

taranta (1)

Some of the other daimones summoned by Solomon are equally relevant to my interests. For instance there is this:

I then asked of the demon if there were females among them. And when he told me that there were, I said that I desired to see them. So Beelzeboul went off at high speed, and brought unto me Onoskelis, that had a very pretty shape, and the skin of a fair-hued woman; and she tossed her head at me. And when she was come, I said to her: “Tell me who art thou?” But she said to me: “I am called Onoskelis, a spirit wrought by Saturn, with power to see what is upon the earth. There is a golden cave where I lie, a place that is ever shifting. At one time I strangle men with a noose; at another, I make them creep about on their belly like worms. I frequent precipices, caves and ravines. Oftentimes, I consort with men in the semblance of a woman, and above all with those of a dark skin.

Arachne-byMattHughes1

Which seems to incorporate elements of Erigone and Ragno. Also noteworthy is the bit about caves, considering:

It must be considered that no one would want to expose himself to this misfortune if he could combat the poison in another way, or if he did not feel compelled to dance from the bottom of his heart. I will spare the details of the many other aids and expedients the poison victims use to raise and cheer their melancholy spirits during the dance, items also needed for one reason or another. For instance there are artificial springs of limpid water constructed in such a way that the water is gathered and always returns to flow anew; these springs are covered and surrounded by green fronds, flowers and trees. Further, lasses dressed in sumptuous wedding gowns have the task of dancing with the tarantati, festively singing and playing the same melody with them during the dance; then there are the weapons and the multicolored drapery hung on the walls. All of these, and many others, cannot be procured without payment. (Ludovico Valletta, De Phalangio Apulo 92)

0307arachne

That was nothing, however, compared to this:

And I glorified God afresh who gave me this authority, and ordered another demon to come before me. And there came seven spirits, females, bound and woven together, fair in appearance and comely. And I Solomon, seeing them, questioned them and said: “Who are ye?” But they, with one accord, said with one voice: “We are of the thirty-three elements of the cosmic ruler of the darkness.” And the first said: “I am Deception.” The second said: “I am Strife.” The third: “I am Klothod, which is battle.” The fourth: “I am Jealousy.” The fifth: “I am Power.” The sixth: “I am Error.” The seventh: “I am the worst of all, and our stars are in heaven. Seven stars humble in sheen, and all together. And we are called as it were goddesses. We change our place all and together, and together we live, sometimes in Lydia, sometimes in Olympus, sometimes in a great mountain.” [...] So I Solomon questioned them one by one, beginning with the first, and going down to the seventh. The first said: “I am Deception, I deceive and weave snares here and there. I whet and excite heresies. But I have an angel who frustrates me, Lamechalal.” [...] Likewise also the third said: “I am called Klothod, which is Battle, and I cause the well-behaved to scatter and fall foul one of the other. And why do I say so much? I have an angel that frustrates me: “Marmarath.” Likewise also the fourth said: “I cause men to forget their sobriety and moderation. I part them and split them into parties; for Strife follows me hand in hand. I rend the husband from the sharer of his bed, and children from parents, and brothers from sisters. But why tell so much to my despite? I have an angel that frustrates me, the great Balthial.”

Did you catch that?

One of the Seven who speak as One is named Klothod – which doesn’t mean “battle” but rather “spinner”, as in the Moirai and Lenai.

And where do they live? Lydia. As in the place where Arachne, Acoetes and Omphalê are from and the name of Saint Paul’s benefactress who was a dealer in purple cloth.

spider_totem_and_her_harem_by_trieffiewiles-d3g6y9f

The description of Strife had me thinking about the punishment that Dionysos inflicted on a certain wolf-worker:

But when Lykourgos knew him for the glorious son of Zeus, pale terror fell upon his spirit; the ox-goad, wherewith he had been at labor smiting, fell from his hand before his feet. He had no will to utter or to ask a word. Now might that poor wretch have escaped his gloomy fate: but he besought not then the divinity to abate his wrath. In his heart he foresaw that doom was nigh to him, when he saw Dionysos come to assail him amid lightnings that flashed manifold with repeated thunderclaps, while Zeus did great honor to his son’s destructive deeds. So Dionysos urged his ministers, and they together sped against Lykourgos and scourged him with rods of foliage. Unflinching he stood, like a rock that juts into the marble sea and groans when a wind arises and blows, and abides the smiting of the seas: even so abode Lykourgos steadfast, and recked not of their smiting. But ever more unceasing wrath went deep into the heart of Thyone’s son: he was minded not at all to take his victim with a sudden death, that still alive he might repay a grievous penalty. He sent madness upon him, and spread about the phantom shapes of serpents, that he might spend the time fending away, til baneful Rumor of his madness should arrive at Thebes on wings and summon Ardys and Astakios, his two sons, and Kytis who married him and was subdued to his embrace. Then, when led by Rumor’s many tongues they came, found Lykourgos just now released from suffering, worn out by madness. They cast their arms around him as he lay in the dust – fools! They were destined to perish at their father’s hand before their mother’s eyes! For not long after, madness, at the command of Dionysos, aroused Lykourgos yet again, but this time with real frenzy. He thought that he was smiting serpents; but they were his children from whom he stole the spirit. And now would Kytis have fallen about them, but in compassion Dionysos snatched her forth and set her beyond the reach of doom, because she had warned her lord constantly in his storms of evil passion. Yet she could not persuade her master, too stubborn; he, when his sudden madness was undone, recognized the god through experience of suffering. Still Dionysos abated not his wrath: as Lykourgos stood unflinching, yet frenzied by distress, the god spread vines about him and fettered all his limbs. His neck and both ankles imprisoned, he suffered the most pitiable doom of all men on earth: and now in the land of Sinners his phantom endures that endless labor – drawing water into a broken pitcher: the stream is poured forth into Haides. Such is the penalty which the loud-thundering son of Kronos ordained for men that fight against the gods; that retribution may pursue them both while living and again in death. (Anonymous 3rd century fragment from Page, Select Papyri III, No. 129)

Which is why I burst out in mad laughter when I read the following:

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.'”

Man, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

Spider Valentine

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Speaking of which …

Light[Ning]Illuminates posted this interesting comparison between Chod and certain experiences members of the thiasos of the Starry Bull have recounted. Included was this helpful warning:

The way to mitigate that danger is to ensure that the practice is done only with the energies from the lineage- those energies make the proper protections and distinctions to protect your real body from harm, and to ensure that the demons summoned can be tamed.

For instance, the founder of a tradition may have made bargains with certain insane and amoral spirits to ensure that nothing averse would befall those who approach and work with said spirits within that tradition.

Bargains that wouldn’t necessarily carry over to those who decided to start up their own rival group.

Because said founder always chooses his words very, very carefully.

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Note that I didn’t deny a connection …

Oh sure.

You instigate magical flame-wars and convince a bunch of people to do a blood rite to let a host of insane and amoral spirits into this world and a couple months later there’s reports of malevolent clowns causing havoc in the French countryside and everyone just assumes the events are connected.

It ain’t easy being Sannion sometimes.

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Thunderstruck with wine

Philostratos the Elder, Imagines 1. 14
In Naples you may see the following in a painting: Bronte (Thunder), stern of face, and Astrape (Lightning) flashing light from her eyes, and raging fire from heaven that has laid hold of a king’s house, suggest the following tale, if it is one you know. A cloud of fire encompassing Thebes breaks into the dwelling of Kadmos as Zeus comes wooing Semele; and Semele apparently is destroyed, but Dionysos is born, by Zeus, so I believe, in the presence of the fire. And the form of Semele is dimly seen as she goes to the heavens, where the Mousai will hymn her praises : but Dionysos leaps forth as his mother’s womb is rent apart and he makes the flame look dim, so brilliantly does he shine like a radiant star. The flame, dividing, dimly outlines a cave for Dionysos more charming than any in Assyria and Lydia; for sprays of ivy grow luxuriantly about it and clusters of ivy berries and now grape-vines and stalks of thyrsos which spring up from the willing earth, so that some grow in the very fire. We must not be surprised if in honour of Dionysos the Fire is crowned by the Earth, for the Earth will take part with the Fire in the Bacchic revel and will make it possible for the revelers to take wine from springs and to draw milk from clods of earth or from a rock as from living breasts. Listen to Pan, how he seems to be hymning Dionysos on the crests of Kithairon, as he dances an Euian fling. And Kithairon in the form of a man laments the woes soon to occur on his slopes, and he wears an ivy crown aslant on his head–for he accepts the crown most unwillingly–and Megaira causes a fir to shoot up beside him and brings to light a spring of water, in token, I fancy, of the blood of Aktaion and of Pentheus.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 6.155 ff
Zeus changed his face and came, rolling in many a loving coil through the dark to the corner of the maiden’s chamber, and shaking his hairy chaps he lulled to sleep as he crept the eyes of those creatures of his own shape who guarded the door. He licked the girl’s form gently with wooing lips. By this marriage with the heavenly dragon, the womb of Persephone swelled with living fruit, and she bore Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titanes cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Kronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain.

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2.1.6
And we are told that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias, he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother, Arymbas. Well, then, the night before that on which the marriage was consummated, the bride dreamed that there was a peal of thunder and that a thunder-bolt fell upon her womb, and that thereby much fire was kindled, which broke into flames that travelled all about, and then was extinguished.

The Gurôb Papyrus
O Eubouleus, Erikepaios, save me! Phanes!
Hurler of Lightning!
THERE IS ONE DIONYSOS.
Tokens … god through the bosom.
Having drunk … ass cowboy …
Password: up and down to the … and what has been given to you.
Consume it, put it into the basket …
… cone, bull-roarer, knucklebones, mirror.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.30.5
There are some who say that Orpheus met his end after being struck by a thunderbolt sent by the god because of the discourses which he taught in the mysteries to men who had not heard them before.

Herodotos, The Histories 4.79
Skyles conceived a desire to be initiated into the rites of Dionysos Bakcheios; and when he was about to begin the sacred mysteries, he saw the greatest vision. He had in the city of the Borysthenites a spacious house, grand and costly (the same house I just mentioned), all surrounded by sphinxes and griffins worked in white marble; this house was struck by a thunderbolt. And though the house burnt to the ground, Skyles none the less performed the rite to the end.

Plutarch, Life of M. Antonius 60.2
In Patrae, while Antony was staying there, the Heracleium was destroyed by lightning; and at Athens the Dionysos in the Battle of the Giants was dislodged by the winds and carried down into the theatre. Now, Antony associated himself with Heracles in lineage, and with Dionysos in the mode of life which he adopted, as I have said, and he was called the New Dionysos.

Archilochos fr. 120
And I know how to lead off the sprightly dance
of the Lord Dionysos, the dithyramb,
I do it thunderstruck with wine.

Euripides, Cretans fragment 472
Son of the Phoenician princess, child of Tyrian Europa and great Zeus, ruler over hundred-fortressed Crete—here am I, come from the sanctity of temples roofed with cut beam of our native wood, its true joints of cypress welded together with Chalybean axe and cement from the bull. Pure has my life been since the day when I became an initiate of Idaean Zeus. Where midnight Zagreus roves, I rove; I have endured his thunder-cry; fulfilled his red and bleeding feasts; held the Great Mother’s mountain flame; I am set free and named by name a Bakchos of the Mailed Priests. Having all-white garments, I flee the birth of mortals and, not nearing the place of corpses, I guard myself against the eating of ensouled flesh.

Aischylos, Edonoi frag 27
… even the sound that wakes to frenzy. Another, with brass-bound cymbals, raises a clang … the twang shrills; the unseen, unknown, bull-voiced mimes in answer bellow fearfully, while the timbrel’s echo, like that of subterranean thunder, rolls along inspiring a mighty terror.

Gold Tablet from Thurii A1
Pure I come from the pure, Queen of those below the earth,
and Eukles and Eubouleus and the other immortal gods;
For I also claim that I am of your blessed race.
But Fate mastered me and the Thunderer, striking with his lightning.
I flew out of the circle of wearying heavy grief;
I came on with swift feet to the desired crown;
I passed beneath the bosom of the Mistress, Queen of the Underworld,
“Happy and most blessed one, a god you shall be instead of a mortal.”
A kid I fell into milk.

PGM IV.1716-1870
I call upon you, author of all creation who spread your own wings over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all things together by your power, firstborn, founder of the universe, golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you carry off every living thing without growing weary of torturing it, rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom men dare beyond what is fitting and take refuge in your light which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torch-carrier, master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine, dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name: AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing, night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA.

Orphic Hymn 47. Perikionios
Incense: Aromatic Herbs

I call upon Bacchos Perikionios, giver of wine,
Who enveloped all of Kadmos’ house and with his might,
Checked and calmed the heaving earth when the blazing thunderbolt,
And the raging gale stirred all the land.
Then everyone’s bonds sprang loose.
Blessed reveler, come with joyous heart.

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks
Athene, to resume our account, having abstracted the heart of Dionysos received the name Pallas from its palpitating (pallein). And the Titans who had torn him limb from limb, setting a cauldron on a tripod, and throwing into it the members of Dionysos, first boiled them down, and then fixing them on spits, “held them over the fire.” But Zeus having smelled the savour of the pieces of flesh that were being cooked assailed the Titans with his thunderbolt, and consigns the members of Dionysos to his son Apollo to be interred. And he–for he did not disobey Zeus–bore the dismembered corpse to Parnassos, and there deposited it.

Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 19
When the Bacchanalian revels were being celebrated at Rome, Aruntius, who had been from birth a water-drinker, set at naught the power of the god. So much so that in a fit of drunkenness he violated his daughter Medullina to insult Liber. But she recognized from a ring his relationship and devised a plan wiser than her years; making her father drunk, and crowning him with garlands, she led him to the altar of Divine Lightning, and there, dissolved in tears, she slew the man who had plotted against her virginity. So Aristeides in the third book of his Italian History.

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Festival of wooliness or festival of the women of the wine-press?

I’ve always found it deeply problematic when people derive the name of Lenaia from the wine-press, because:

none of our sources — visual or literary — show any involvement of the wine-press in this festival. It would be pretty astounding if they did since Lenaia fell during the middle of winter and for the most part within our January. Should one leave behind the ivory halls of academia they would be hard pressed to find grapes still on the vine or being crushed at this time of year in Greece or anywhere else for that matter. All the hard work had already been done months before, around the time of Oschophoria and the other autumn harvest festivals; there were only a few weeks left at this point until the casks were broached and the new wine tasted for the first time at Anthesteria.

Like most people I assumed it came from Λῆναι, the priestesses of Dionysos Lenaios, who in the words of Miriam Valdés Guía:

are habitually associated with the Lenaia, which included, according to this testimonium, a procession in Ephesus dedicated to the god accompanied by the hymn to the phallus, and it also records that ‘Hades is the same as Dionysos, in whose honour they go mad (μαίνονται) and ‘celebrate the Lenaia’ or ‘become lenai’ (ληναΐζουσιν). This latter phrase provides, in our view, very valuable information about the archaic festival in Ephesus. Firstly the reference to Dionysos, identifed with Hades, indicates the god’s contact with death in the festival; secondly the verb ληναΐζω may refer to the presence and importance of the women celebrating Dionysos in the festival, possibly with ‘ecstatic’ dancing and singing, if the verb is translated as ‘becoming lenai’ (Heraclitus uses it as a synonym for βακχεύουσι), as the scholia indicate. In fact, in another fragment, also recorded by Clement, Heraclitus alludes, amongst other groups traditionally associated with the cult of Dionysos (and the night), to the Λῆναι. The scholium ad loc. equates ληναΐζω with βακχεύουσιν, and the lenai with the Bacchants; and in a gloss of Hesychius the lenai are also equated with the Bacchants. In later literature the lenai are the maenads of Dionysos. Theocritus (Idyll. 26), for example, refers to the bacchants Agave, Ion and Autonoe as lenai or bacchai, and speaks of their rites at ‘the 12 altars.’ In a third-century BCE inscription found in Halicarnassus, Dionysos ‘leads’ the bacchants (θοᾶν ληναγέ – τα Βακχᾶν). The fragment of Heraclitus referred to above appears to indicate both the important part played by women who ‘become Λῆναι,’ at least in Ephesus in the Archaic period, and Dionysos’ link with death in this ancient festival shared with the Ionians. We think that the Λῆναι have and/or had a major role in the Athenian festival, in awakening, invoking or calling the god from death. This rite, in the Archaic era, should be understood in the context of the agrarian cycle, even when the festival is celebrated in the month Gamelion (January-February), barren from the agricultural point of view. It may be one of the rites that contribute to propitiating the awakening of nature, and in this particular case, that specifically associated with the god: vines and the production of wine, the element with which Dionysos himself tends to be identified – as Natale Spineto has said – from the time of Homer and throughout the Archaic period. This was not the time of the grape harvest, but it was, as this author points out, that when the vines were pruned (which could be evoked by the ‘violent act’ of crushing in the wine press),and the first opening of the πίθοι. (Redefining Dionysos in Athens from the Written Sources: The Lenaia, Iacchos and Attic Women)

I think I hit on something really important. It’s hard to say for sure, since I’m a high school drop-out and know fuck all about Greek – but look at where my epiphany about the phrase Ἀστέριος ὄνομα has lead, so hear me out if you would.

The accent for ληνός (wine-press) falls at the end with omicron while the accent for Λῆναι (Dionysiac women) falls at the beginning with eta. You know another word where that happens?

λῆνος • (lênos) (genitive λήνεος) n, third declension
1.wool
2.(in the plural) fleece

Which would then make this the festival of wooliness. That’s certainly more in keeping with the time of year than a wine-press festival, especially in light of Hesiod’s remark:

Avoid the month Lenaeon, wretched days, all of them fit to skin an ox, and the frosts which are cruel when Boreas blows over the earth. He blows across horse-breeding Thrace upon the wide sea and stirs it up, while earth and the forest howl. On many a high-leafed oak and thick pine he falls and brings them to the bounteous earth in mountain glens: then all the immense wood roars and the beasts shudder and put their tails between their legs, even those whose hide is covered with fur; for with his bitter blast he blows even through them, although they are shaggy-breasted. He goes even through an ox’s hide; it does not stop him. Also he blows through the goat’s fine hair. But through the fleeces of sheep, because their wool is abundant, the keen wind Boreas pierces not at all; but it makes the old man curved as a wheel. And it does not blow through the tender maiden who stays indoors with her dear mother, unlearned as yet in the works of golden Aphrodite, and who washes her soft body and anoints herself with oil and lies down in an inner room within the house, on a winter’s day when the Boneless One gnaws his foot in his fireless house and wretched home; for the sun shows him no pastures to make for, but goes to and fro over the land and city of dusky men, and shines more sluggishly upon the whole race of the Hellenes. Then the horned and unhorned denizens of the wood, with teeth chattering pitifully, flee through the copses and glades, and all, as they seek shelter, have this one care, to gain thick coverts or some hollow rock. Then, like the Three-legged One whose back is broken and whose head looks down upon the ground, like him, I say, they wander to escape the white snow. (Works and Days 504-535)

In fact, Hesiod specifically mentions wool in this context.

Interestingly, wool and weaving are also prominent themes in the play Lysistrata, which Aristophanes debuted during Lenaia:

Women will untangle the mess of the state that men have made, just as they untangle threads while weaving. This way and that still the spool we keep passing, till it is finally clear. So to untangle the War and its errors, ambassadors out on all sides we will send. This way and that, here, there and round about–soon you will find that the War has an end. Well, first as we wash dirty wool so’s to cleanse it, so with a pitiless zeal we will scrub through the whole city for all greasy fellows; burrs too, the parasites, off we will rub. That verminous plague of insensate place-seekers soon between thumb and forefinger we’ll crack. All who inside Athens’ walls have their dwelling into one great common basket we’ll pack. Disenfranchised or citizens, allies or aliens, pell-mell the lot of them in we will squeeze. Till they discover humanity’s meaning…. As for disjointed and far colonies, them you must never from this time imagine as scattered about just like lost hanks of wool. Each portion we’ll take and wind in to this centre, inward to Athens each loyalty pull, till from the vast heap where all’s piled together at last can be woven a strong Cloak of State.

During this civic festival, as I relate:

The city invoked the god Dionysos in his role as bringer of wealth and the blessings of civilization. According to Stephanus of Byzantium (s.v. Lenaios) the great pompê or procession began en agrois “outside the walls” or “in the countryside” and wound inward through the maze of streets until it reached his temple just beyond the marketplace. This temple was called the Lenaion and after the 5th century bce contained one of Athens’ largest theaters, capable of seating thousands (though the theater used in the Civic Dionysia was even bigger.) In addition to the Archon Basileos, the officials from Eleusis and local dignitaries the pompê consisted of actors, Dionysian priests, men in satyr costumes and women dressed as nymphs or maenads dancing with snakes. This suggests that the pompê was in some sense a reenactment of the triumphant army that Dionysos marched at the head of when he came to teach King Amphiktyon viticulture and how to properly mix water with wine to avoid the more dangerous side effects of the divine beverage (Athenaios 2. 38c-d). To further emphasize Dionysos’ role as culture hero and founder of refined and civilizing institutions (paralleling the accomplishments of Demeter) the Daduchos or Torch-bearer of Eleusis hailed him during the sacrifice as Iakchos (the guide of initiates) and Ploutodotos (the bestower of the earth’s riches) as we learn from the scholiast on Aristophanes’ Frogs 479. Once the public sacrifice of a bull was over the dramatic contests began.

The invocation of Dionysos as Iakchos is very interesting and suggests that the association of the latter with the distaff in Magna Graecia may not be random at all. Note as well the epithet Πλουτοδότης and the involvement of the Eleusinian officials.

This is especially significant in light of a passage contained in the excerpt from Hesiod I quoted just a bit ago, which I will separate for emphasis:

But through the fleeces of sheep, because their wool is abundant, the keen wind Boreas pierces not at all; but it makes the old man curved as a wheel. And it does not blow through the tender maiden who stays indoors with her dear mother, unlearned as yet in the works of golden Aphrodite, and who washes her soft body and anoints herself with oil and lies down in an inner room within the house, on a winter’s day when the Boneless One gnaws his foot in his fireless house and wretched home; for the sun shows him no pastures to make for, but goes to and fro over the land and city of dusky men, and shines more sluggishly upon the whole race of the Hellenes.

Which calls to mind the Orphic myth of Persephone’s web and the sparagmos of bull-horned Zagreus:

Demeter hid her daughter in a cave in Sicily to escape her many suitors. Ah, maiden Persephoneia! You could not find how to escape your mating! No, a dragon was your mate, when Zeus changed his face and came, rolling in many a loving coil through the dark to the corner of the maiden’s chamber, and shaking his hairy chaps he lulled to sleep as he crept the eyes of those creatures of his own shape who guarded the door. He licked the girl’s form gently with wooing lips. By this marriage with the heavenly dragon, the womb of Persephone swelled with living fruit, and she bore Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titanes cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Kronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain. Sometimes he was a curiously formed baby, sometimes like a mad youth with the flower of the first down marking his rounded chin with black. Again, a mimic lion he uttered a horrible roar in furious rage from a wild snarling throat, as he lifted a neck shadowed by a thick mane, marking his body on both sides with the self-striking whip of a tail which flickered about over his hairy back. Next, he left the shape of a lion’s looks and let out a ringing neigh, now like an unbroken horse that lifts his neck on high to shake out the imperious tooth of the bit, and rubbing, whitened his cheek with hoary foam. Sometimes he poured out a whistling hiss from his mouth, a curling horned serpent covered with scales, darting out his tongue from his gaping throat, and leaping upon the grim head of some Titan encircled his neck in snaky spiral coils. Then he left the shape of the restless crawler and became a tiger with gay stripes on his body; or again like a bull emitting a counterfeit roar from his mouth he butted the Titanes with sharp horn. So he fought for his life, until Hera with jealous throat bellowed harshly through the air–that heavy-resentful step-mother! And the gates of Olympos rattled in echo to her jealous throat from high heaven. Then the bold bull collapsed: the murderers each eager for his turn with the knife chopt piecemeal the bull-shaped Dionysos. (Dionysiaka 6.155 ff)

Note that among the toys used by the Titans to ensnare him is λῆνος:

And the useless symbols of this mystic rite it will not be useless to exhibit for condemnation. These are dice, ball, hoop, apples, top, looking-glass, tuft of wool.

On this passage from Clement of Alexandria a scholiast writes:

Lenaizontas – a rustic song sung at the wine trough, which even itself has to do with the dismemberment of Dionysos. Clement has put very well and gracefully the bit about “binding up with ivy”, at the same time showing the fact that the Lenaian festivals are dedicated to Dionysos and also how as drunken mischief these things have been clapped together by tipsy and drunken people. (Scholiast to Protrepticus 1.2.2 p. 297.4)

Note the binding up in association with Lenaia? Which makes me wonder if there’s a connection between Lenai and Klodones. You know, there is another concurrence of these two terms.

In the opening of the Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine Jesus is described as follows:

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. (1.12-19)

While a little later on we find:

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress. (14.19–20)

Which links back to the Herakleitos quote, because circles.

Edited to add: Weirdly enough, shortly after I posted this I found what may well be confirmation of my odd little theory in a passage from Thomas Taylor:

And as to the fleece of wool, this is a symbol of laceration, or distribution of intellect, or Dionysus, into matter; for the verb σπαραττω, sparatto, dilanio, which is used in the relation of the Bacchic discerption, signifies to tear in pieces like wool: and hence Isidorus derives the Latin word lana, wool, from laniando, as vellus from vellendo. Nor must it pass unobserved, that λῆνος, in Greek, signifies wool, and ληνὸς, a wine-press. And, indeed, the pressing of grapes is as evident a symbol of dispersion as the tearing of wool; and this circumstance was doubtless one principal reason why grapes were consecrated to Bacchus: for a grape, previous to its pressure, aptly represents that which is collected into one; and when it is pressed into juice, it no less aptly represents the diffusion of that which was before collected and entire. (A Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries pgs 210-211)

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Man, people are ridiculous

The comments on Hozier’s Take Me To Church are fucking hilarious. In case you haven’t heard it, the song is about breaking up with his girlfriend, which he compares to a loss of faith and god. The video, however, is about this gay couple getting beaten up by a group of masked thugs because a break-up is apparently also like a hate crime or something. I don’t know, the whole thing is Very Earnest but with a couple decent lyrics scattered here and there. Now, the funny shit is that there’s all these people freaking out because they bought the song thinking he was a Christian recording artist (you know, because of the song title) only to discover that he’s promoting tolerance and paganism and other evil things with his music and now they feel cheated. The artist’s only obligation is to his craft. If he doesn’t mean what you think he does, that’s on you for not taking the time to listen properly. And saying that you’re offended is merely an observation like “the sky is blue” or “my toe is itchy” – no one is required to change who they are or what they’re doing to accommodate your precious fee fees. Man, people are ridiculous.

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One last thing I wanted to say

I realized a while back that there was an inherent tension between a religious community and a mystery tradition and it’s extremely difficult to meet the demands that each necessitates. By trying to force the community to adhere to the standards of the mysteries, I was causing confusion and harm, and damaging the work of others. This is a conclusion I had reached a couple months back, and which was strongly brought to the fore during my observance of Karneia. It’s kind of ironic that the issue that would force me to choose which pole to put my effort into should arise from the next community chat we had, but that’s life with the gods. Although it was this issue, it could have been any number of others and I was already intending to shift my focus with the new year. This just prompted it to happen sooner and with a cleaner break. As I said in a comment to the last post:

I really want to stay in touch with as many folks as possible and there’s no bad blood on my part. (Man, that was a terrible pun.) I genuinely hope that you remain in the thiasos. You guys have really managed to create a wonderful, supportive, nourishing community and you have every right to be there. The reason I’m leaving is because I don’t want to destroy that. I don’t want to go around policing people’s thoughts and kicking them out because they fail to pass some litmus test, because that would be violating the spirit of Dionysos – but on the other hand, with what I know, so would compromising on sacrifice. Just on a practical level, the whole spiritual technology of this tradition is wrapped up in it. I cannot do what I was called to do for my community without it. Therefore I am extricating myself from the thiasos and starting over. My problem was in trying to create both a religious community and a mystery tradition around this stuff – one cannot make something simultaneously broad and narrow. I want you guys to still be there, doing your thing because so much good has come out of that – I’ll just be over here, doing my thing parallel to y’all.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter. Starting tomorrow I’m going to be spending some time in seclusion to reflect, regroup and refocus as well as performing rites of cleansing and trying to manage the spiritual fall-out as best I can. I feel that this was the best choice for me, personally, to make but every choice sends out ripples. Again, be well and Bacchic blessings to you all.

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The thiasos is now headless

I did not anticipate the intense resistance that Thursday’s announcement has been met with. I am unable to compromise when it comes to sacrifice as it is not just a traditional practice but central to the mysteries I have been given to impart. I am equally unwilling to see the religious community you guys have worked so hard to build up torn apart over this. Therefore the only sensible solution I am presented with is to disentangle these mysteries from your community and resign my position as archiboukolos of the thiasos of the Starry Bull. You are now free to make of it what you will. I will be adopting a very different model as I go forward in my work with these mysteries, but there’s time enough to discuss that later. For now I wish you well and hope that this transition will be as smooth and easy as possible. Be well and Bacchic blessings to you all.

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From Death comes Life

And must my trembling spirit fly into a world unknown?

We’re all just following the light of long dead stars.

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That question you just knew was coming up

Is human sacrifice part of the Bacchic Orphic tradition?

Yup. That’s the one.

Well, if you’ve read your Euripides, Pausanias, Plutarch, Apollodoros, Livy and Dionysios of Panopolis then you already know the answer to it.

In fact you know that more than just one type of human sacrifice was performed.

For instance, it’s a central component in the identity of the Neos Dionysos, the mortal surrogate of the god who wields tremendous power and charisma and radically transforms the society into which he (and it is always a he) is born and who is stricken down just when he is about to reach the pinnacle of his achievement, usually as a consequence of some inner fatal flaw. He lives out the myth of the god in luxurious excess (the more spectacular and tragic, the better) and from the moment he puts on that mask he is marked for death. His power and the blessings that he freely dispenses are dependent upon it – indeed, only by embracing his impending death is he able to prolong it. The second that he values life or anything else more than being the living image of his god on earth and fulfilling that role with everything he has, he’s done for. Even if the man had another twenty years in him, it’s over – the power of the god withdraws from him and he suffers a terrible and humiliating demise. Death comes for him even if he embraces it, but then it is a good death, the kind that men are still talking about centuries later. It is his death that brings renewal to the land and the people, that starts the cycle over once more.

But that is not the only form of human sacrifice that we know. There is also the sorrowful maiden who atones for the negligence and sins of her people. She (and it is always a she) offers up her life when things have gotten so bad that there’s no way out. Because she has no share in the guilt she takes upon herself, her death is so shocking and horrific that it wakes her people up and forces them to abandon the path of destruction they were blindly rushing down. Sometimes her death is not enough. Sometimes it goes unnoticed by the people who need to witness it most – and so the gods draw their attention to it. Through disease. Through madness. Through monsters. And through death that will not end until they change their ways or are obliterated from the earth. This ceases only when the death of the maiden is recognized and rites of appeasement are instituted for her. And with each performance of those rites her story is told and the people recall what they did to provoke such a terrible fate, and in remembering ensure that they will never do such things again.

And some humans are made sacred not by being killed but driven out of the land, either to set up a new colony somewhere far away or to spend their days in heroic adventures. They can never look back, never return home.

And then there are the spoils of war, a demonstration of might and right. This is a risky gambit, however – as often as it has impressed the gods it has brought down their wrath.

Then there are circumstantial human sacrifices – not recurring patterns but isolated incidents. The crops fail. The wine goes bad. Dicks remain limp. The city is polluted. The children are insane. War is on the horizon. Each of these situations may call for the shedding of human blood to forestall greater calamity.

But only if the gods demand it.

If the signs are not confirmed and all the right procedures observed, this presumptuous act may bring down the wrath of the gods not just on the one who did it, their family and all who are close to them – no, sometimes even whole cities suffer for the deeds of one unrighteous and presumptuous man. Just ask Zoilus.

And there is a human sacrifice that is not desired by the gods, that brings nothing but ills to the land and yet sometimes must happen. That is the murder of an infant and the consumption of its flesh by its mother. This is punishment, and the worst sort of punishment for it wipes a whole line out of existence.

And so on.

This is not a tradition for the squeamish. Our myths, our history are written in blood – and from the beginning violence and tragedy have shaped our world.

But that’s in the past! We’re more evolved!

Open your fucking eyes, man.

Back in the day all you had to worry about was getting run through with a sword while you watched your wife get raped and the walls of your city burn down around you. And disease and famine and wild beasts. So many more wild beasts back then. But that was pretty much it.

These days there’s drones and meth and fracking and genocide and an island of plastic in the sea and the threat of total nuclear annihilation and a million other signs of progress all around us.

You think we’ve abolished slavery? Tell that to the single mother of three who’s working fifty hours a week, with no benefits, and never quite able to make ends meet. Tell that to the brown children, choking on toxic fumes, whose broken and tear-stained fingers make your cheap t-shirts and electronic devices.

Yeah, we’re so much better off than our ancestors. That’s why people numb themselves with prescription pills and television and binge eating and therapeutic shopping and loveless affairs and drug their kids the second they show an uncomfortable emotion. Everything’s alright. Everything’s normal. Everything’s happy and fun.

Remember that the next time they ship your children off to die in a land you’ve never heard of so the oil companies can grow even richer.

Remember that the next time a grandmother gets clubbed in the face by a riot cop.

Remember that the next time a species goes extinct because of a toxic spill or deforestation.

Remember that the next time they find e. coli in your McNuggets or worse yet the spinach at your supermarket.

Every one of us who lives in this society has got blood on our hands. This shit is carried out in our name and for our benefit and unless you are actively fighting against it (actually in the streets trying to dismantle the machine, not just filling out some bullshit online petition and then posting it to Facebook so your friends can “like” it) you are just as guilty as the perpetrators. More so, since they wouldn’t be doing what they are if you weren’t creating a demand for it.

At least the ancients were more upfront about their savagery, and more direct with it.

But back to the topic at hand.

Yes, human sacrifice is part of our tradition – but it’s an exceptional part which only takes place under the most dire of circumstances.

And if tomorrow the gods should demand such a victim I wouldn’t automatically give it to them. First I would verify 1) that this is actually our gods who are requesting this and not some random malign spirit and 2) that this was indeed something that they wanted and that they would not accept any other offering in substitute.

I would have this confirmed by other outside and uninvolved diviners with no prior knowledge of what’s going on and nothing explained to them. If they got back the same answer I would then try to persuade, bargain and outright plead with the gods to accept something different.

Should that approach fail I’d offer my own life to them.

After all it is customary to give to the gods the very best that you have and what’s better than a Sannion?

Nothing.

Nothing is better than a Sannion.

But if the gods want something different or more then I’d break out the knives and start sharpening them because at the end of the day I serve the gods and not humanity.

Which is probably going to piss off a bunch of people even though it’s strictly a theoretical mental exercise with a statistical probability of 99.5% of never happening. I mean, you might as well ask me what I’d do if I was stranded in the Andes with a team of soccer players and only a bag of mint chocolates to share among us. Or if I’d shoot a certain young, mustachioed art student were I transported back to a Vienna beer hall in 1912. Or if I’d push the button on a mysterious box for a million dollars knowing that it would somehow result in the death of someone somewhere in the world. (Answers: grab the bag of chocolates and run off so I can die after gorging on them and not suffer the indignity of being eaten by people who play a sport I detest; yes, bad art deserves to be punished; I’d probably be pushing that button before the person even finished their spiel and afterwards I would offer to trade in the money for extra tries.)

Yeah, I’m being flip but I’m kind of sick of this question coming up every time people discuss the topic of animal sacrifice. It’s either a rhetorical trick to shut down or derail the conversation or it proves exactly what I was saying in the last post – if you reject sacrifice you can’t help but think horrible and insulting things about the people who practice it. And frankly, I’m okay with that. It’s a cheap way to get thrills and excitement. Merely by saying I don’t object to human sacrifice (even though I’ve never done it and in all likelihood never will) I get to watch you freak out and say amusing things.

Let’s see if I can push other buttons.

I’m a Fascist!

I do drugs!

I watch clown pornography!

I think most of what Trent Reznor has done since Downward Spiral and Fragile is shit!

I disapprove of social media!

Oh fuck, I went too far with that one, didn’t I?

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