And lastly, he’s a clip from a production of Euripides’ fragmentary play The Cretans:

Which reminds me of this passage from Sir Orfeo, right after Orpheus’ love Heurodis has been bitten by a poisonous creature:

She slept until the sun had passed its height. And when she woke – God! She screamed and started doing some terrible things! She beat with her hands and her feet and scratched her face with her fingernails so badly that the blood ran down her cheeks. She tore at her frock, ripping the costly material into shreds, and behaving for all the world as though she had gone stark staring mad. Her two maidens were frightened out of their wits! They ran to the palace and urged everyone to go and restrain her. Knights made their way as quickly as they could to the orchard, and ladies and damsels also, more than sixty I think. They arrived at the orchard, took the Queen up in their arms and brought her into the palace and to her bed, where they kept a tight hold on her to prevent her from injuring herself further.

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Lightning Scorpion Prophecy

Speaking of tarantism, De Martino and others tend to dismiss the Christian elements of the tradition as thoughtless and artificial syncretism, a transparent attempt to avoid persecution from the authorities by slapping a random saint on the remnants of pagan customs. I’ve argued before that they knew exactly what they were doing in assigning patronage to Saint Paul (most notably here and here) but I didn’t quite realize how right they were until reading this piece called Lightning Scorpion Prophecy that argues Saul of Tarsos was duped and became an agent of Satan.

The author compares Jesus’ vision:

Then he said to them I saw the Adversary, Satan falling as lightning (astraphe) from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions and upon the whole of the hostile enemy’s power. And absolutely nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:18-19)

To Paul’s:

It happened. I was traveling and approaching Damascus, around noon, then suddenly nearby a burst of lightning (periastraphai) from heaven, an intense light all about me. (Acts 22:6)

And goes on to add:

Was this flash of lightning Paul experienced actually an encounter with Satan disguised as Jesus? It appears the similarities of their experiences are striking, and thus this is Jesus’ clue left behind to make us weigh whether Paul met Satan, not Jesus, on the road outside Damascus.

Which naturally reminds me of the prologue to Euripides’ Bakchai:

I’ve arrived here in the land of Thebes,
I, Dionysos, son of Zeus, born to him
from Semele, Kadmos’ daughter, delivered
by a fiery midwife—Zeus’ lightning flash.
Yes, I’ve changed my form from god to human,
appearing here at these streams of Dirke,
the waters of Ismaros. I see my mother’s tomb—
for she was wiped out by that lightning bolt.
It’s there, by the palace, with that rubble,
the remnants of her house, still smoldering
from Zeus’ living fire—Hera’s undying outrage
against my mother.

But it gets even more interesting than that:

Additionally, Jesus gave His disciples the express “authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions” in the context of confronting Satan’s power. While a serpent makes sense due to its spiritual associations, why did Jesus add “scorpions”? Would Jesus say this to help us later notice Paul was afflicted by a stinger-equivalent of a scorpion by Satan, by Paul’s own admission? Paul claimed that his pride was held in check by Satan because: “I was given a sharp pointed prod (skolops – such as a scorpion’s stinger) in the flesh, a messenger Satan in order that he would strike and torment me in order that I not become overly conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-7) Paul asked the person He assumed was the Lord to take it away, but this Lord refused. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8-9.) Why is this an important passage to consider? How does it undermine Paul? Had Paul meant thorn, the precise word is “Skolos,” which means “thorn or prickle.” (Quattrocchi, id., at 2436.) Skolops, by contrast means “anything pointed.” Id., at 2436. Another word for “thorn” which Paul could have used, if thorn were truly intended, was the word akantha which is the term used by other New Testament writers when referring to thorns. And stauros meant a stake of wood, large or small. So we should not necessarily indulge that Paul meant a ‘thorn’ or anything woodlike. What also points at the view that Paul likely meant it was a ‘stinger,’ or ‘scorpion’s stinger’ was Paul says it was sent as a “Messenger of Satan” as a chastisement to keep Paul humble. For scorpion’s stingers were used for chastisement in Solomon’s time. In III Kings 3:11 (Septuagint chaptering), the advice given by young men to Solomon on how to deal with backsliders was to tell them “I will chastise you with scorpions” — in Greek, skorpios. And given Paul says this skolops is from Satan to chastise him, it appears Paul was alluding to that function of a scorpion’s sting. The book of Revelation also mentions scorpion’s stingers as a form of “tormenting” someone, which Paul said was Satan’s purpose in giving him the “SKOLOPS.” See Rev. 9:10 (locusts of the pit “had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.”)

The taranta is the spiritual agent responsible for the symptoms of tarantism, described by De Martino as:

… 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.

I have tended to focus on the spider form of taranta (for obvious reasons) but as often as not they could appear as that other arachnid, the scorpion.

De Martino even quoted a bawdy song associated with tarantism which invoked the good saint in his scorpion form:

Santu Paulu meu de le tarante
che pizzichi le caruse ‘nmezz’all’anche
Santu Paulu meu de li scorzoni
che pizzichi li carusi int’i balloni
Deu ti muzzicau la tarantella?
Sotto la pudìa de la vannella

[My Saint Paul of the tarante, who stings the girls between their hips
My Saint Paul of the scorzoni who stings the boys in their pants.
Where did the little taranta bite you?
Under the hem of my skirt.]

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This is what I get for writing while stoned

So I closed my last post with this rumination:

And circles make me think of labyrinths which makes me wonder – if eating animals makes us bestial, by eating human flesh did Asterion become more man-like?

And then realized I had just made an argument equally for and against offering human sacrifice to the gods.

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Orphic om nom nom

Spider remains my infallible guide through the mysteries of the labyrinth. I was pondering this variant account of Arachne’s origin I recently stumbled upon when I was struck with a thunderbolt of sudden realization:

And Theophilos, of the school of Zenodotos, records that in Attica there were two siblings; Phalanx, a boy and the girl was named Arachne. They were tutored by Athene, Phalanx learning the arts of war from her and Arachne the art of weaving. However the goddess came to abhor them since they had intercourse with one another, transforming them into animals destined to be eaten by their own offspring. (Scholiast on Nikander’s Theriaka 12.a)

The Orphic prohibition on eating certain animals isn’t vegetarianism (though it was sometimes mistaken for such in antiquity) nor is it driven by sentimentality – it is straight up a taboo in the Frazerian sense. The concern wasn’t for the preservation of life (which is why they had no problem participating in animal sacrifice) but rather the effect that consuming the animal’s soul would have on the individual - since that was actually part of the telete.

This is actually made clear in the original Greek – in the rare instances when you find Orphics mentioned in conjunction with abstention from meat (and that rarity should tell us something, since vegetarians wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to enshroud their beliefs in the authority of a figure like Orpheus if they could) what they are avoiding is flesh that is empsuchos “ensouled” not “alive” zōntes or something similar. Notably, in Homer, psuchai are something we possess only in death, a sort of spiritual double that’s produced when the body ceases to respirate and is sent down to the house of Haides. This concept changed drastically under the Presocratics until it came to have its contemporary psychological associations – but Orphism was self-consciously Homeric and pre-Homeric in its orientation. (All Orphic literature, even in the late period, was produced in strict dactylic hexameters and there are strong, and rather ironic, borrowings from Homer in the gold lamellae.) So I think Orphics were drawing on primitive, one might even say shamanic considering the region where the tradition originated, notions of the soul as a repository of qualities and consciousness that could migrate from one body to another. Thus by eating an animal one would take on the soul of that animal, including its powers, personality and behaviors. So, for instance, when we find prohibitions such as these:

Those who are mages (magoi) and purifiers (kathartai) and beggar-priests (agurtai) and vagrant-charlatans (alazones) purport to be extremely reverent of the gods and to know something more than the rest of us. They use the divine to hide behind and to cloak the fact that they have nothing to apply to disease that will bring relief. So that their ignorance should not become manifest, they promoted the belief that disease was sacred. They added further appropriate arguments to render their method of healing safe for themselves. They applied purifications (katharmoi) and incantations (epaoidai) and told people to refrain from bathing and many foods unsuitable for the sick to eat: among fish they banned red mullet, black-tail, grey mullet, and eel (for these are the most hazardous); among meats goat, venison, pork and dog (for these are the meats that upset the stomach most); among poultry cock, pigeon, the otis-bird and all those birds considered to be least indigestible; among vegetables mint, garlic, and onions (their sharpness is deleterious for a sick man). They also forbade the wearing of a black cloak (for black is deathly), the lying on or wearing of goatskin, the placing of foot upon foot or hand upon hand (for this is shackling). (Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease 1.11–18)

We can see the laws of sympatheia and contagion at work here. These specific animals are singled out for what they represent which was situationally undesirable, particularly since the recommendations are being made for a client who is suffering from illness. In other contexts one might actually want to become a goat or a bull and thus would consume their flesh in order to draw the animals’ souls into them. Seen in this light several Orphic texts suddenly take on a whole new meaning:

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. (Euripides, Cretans fragment 472)

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. (Gold tablet from Pelinna)

Accept ye my great offering as the payment for my lawless fathers.
Save me, great Brimo …
and Demeter and Rhea …
and the armed Kouretes: let us … and we will make fine sacrifices.
A ram and a he-goat … boundless gifts.
… and by the law of the river …
Taking of the goat … let him eat the rest of the meat …
Let no uninitiated look on!
(The Gurôb Papyrus)

So there may have been a taboo not just on eating certain animals – but on eating them outside of ritual.

And a mythic prototype of this would naturally have been the metamorphoses described by Nonnos in the sixth book of his Dionysiaka:

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.

As well as the vision of Platonic revenant Er who described a musical orgy during which Orpheus was transformed into a swan and Thamyras a nightingale and a bird became a man in a “strange, pitiful ridiculous spectacle.” (Republic 10.620a)

The profound identification of eater with eaten which lies at the heart of omophagia was too much for certain sensitive individuals such as Empedokles:

Will ye not cease from this ill-sounding slaughter? See ye not that ye are devouring one another in the thoughtlessness of your hearts? [...] And the father lifts up his own son in a changed form and slays him with a prayer. Infatuated fool! And they run up to the sacrificers, begging mercy, while he, deaf to their cries, slaughters them in his halls and gets ready the evil feast. In like manner does the son seize his father, and children their mother, tear out their life and eat the kindred flesh. [...] Draining their life with bronze. [...] Ah, woe is me that the pitiless day of death did not destroy me ere ever I wrought evil deeds of devouring with my lips! (fragments 136-39)

And like someone reeling from a bad acid trip who swears off all drugs, he rejected the core sacrament of Orphism after going through it. This sarcophobic strain enters Pythagoreanism in the second or third generation and gives rise to the soma-sema tag “the body is a tomb” which dominates Neo-Pythagoreanism, Neoplatonism and certain branches of Orphism (such as the ones that emphasize Apollon or Zeus above Dionysos and Persephone) to the end of antiquity. But death as a transition from one state of life to another and sacramental theriomorphism remained hallmarks of Bacchic Orphism and related Dionysiac traditions.

Like tarantism, which seems to be the process in reverse. Instead of becoming what you bite, you become what bites you.

Gilbert Rouget writes in Music and Trance: A theory of the relations between music and possession:

One of the dance figures of the tarantulees – the best known – consists, as we know, in imitating the spider’s movements: back to the ground, body arched to a great or lesser degree, the tarantulee moves about like a spider on all fours. One can see this very clearly in D. Carpitella’s film, and the sight is striking [...] Despite appearances, the divinity responsible for the possession is not the one that is excorcised. On the contrary, it is the divinity concerned who, by allowing the possessing person to identify with him or her, provides the means of ecxorcising the illness – real or imagined – from which the person is suffering.

Elaborating on this, blogger quotidian banality writes:

The spider which was held responsible for tarantism was a mythical creature which did not correspond to any arachnid of modern zoology. Instead, the taranta assembled the characteristics of several different species of spider into a mythical whole. Different colours were attributed to the spiders – principally red, green and black – and the ‘bite’ of each respective spider caused different behaviour in the victim. Those bit by red spiders displayed martial, heroic behaviour; those bit by green spiders displayed eroticised behaviour; and those bitten by black spiders were fascinated by funerary paraphernalia. Furthermore, each colour spider had its own repertoire of musical figures and dances: for example, those bitten by a green spider would only dance to a tarantella tune associated with the green spider. Finally, the victims of the spider’s bite were fascinated by pieces of cloth with the appropriate colour. Thus, during the course of an exorcism different Tarantella tunes were played and different colours of clothes were given to the victim in order to determine which spider possesses her. Only the appropriate tarantella tune, the appropriate colour and the appropriate dance would cure the victim – at least for the time being, until the affliction reoccured a year later. Music serves at once as diagnosis and therapy.

Which hearkens back to what I was saying about sympatheia and contagion earlier.

And circles make me think of labyrinths which makes me wonder – if eating animals makes us bestial, by eating human flesh did Asterion become more man-like?

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Music for distorted angels

Speaking of the intersection of art and politics, I’m really digging Archive’s concept album and film AXIOM: STORIES OF THE CITY. This segment in particular, which is weirdly reminiscent of certain dreams I’ve had:

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Nationalism rears its ugly head


At first I assumed like everyone else that it had to do with Mr. Pooh’s sexuality:

Winnie the Pooh has been banned from a Polish playground because of his “dubious sexuality” and “inappropriate” dress. The much-loved animated bear was suggested at a local council meeting to decide which famous character should become the face of the play area in the small town of Tuszyn. But the idea soon sparked outrage among more conservative members, with one councillor even denouncing poor Pooh as a “hermaphrodite”. The meeting of officials was sneakily recorded by a councillor and leaked to local press, according to the Croatian Times. One unnamed councillor can be heard discussing Pooh’s sexuality, arguing that “it doesn’t wear underpants because it doesn’t have a sex” before another, Hanna Jachimska starts criticising Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne. “This is very disturbing but can you imagine! The author was over 60 and cut [Pooh’s] testicles off with a razor blade because he had a problem with his identity,” she said.

But reading the article more carefully, I noticed this:

“The problem with that bear is it doesn’t have a complete wardrobe,” said Ryszard Cichy during the discussion. “It is half naked which is wholly inappropriate for children. [Poland’s fictional bear] is dressed from head to toe, unlike Pooh who is only dressed from the waist up.”

It’s not that Milne cut Pooh’s testicles off with a razor blade – it’s that they want their own Polish fictional bear represented on the playground, because Winnie is a no good, dirty foreigner. Ethnocentrism – the refuge of imbeciles and the downtrodden.

We shouldn’t be too hard on the Polacks, however. Look at the kind of shit our elected officials regularly debate. Democracy is the problem. A country is not a game show – it’s absurd to hold that they be run according to the same principles of popularity. In fact I’d go so far as to say that the rabble should never be involved in their own governing. And if they are, don’t be surprised when they spend their time debating fictional, testicleless bears.

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Fire lives in the death of earth, air lives in the death of fire, water lives in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.

I’m not actually going to begin writing Carried Away until the noumenia when I plan to make offerings to Apollo Soranos (per the divination I did earlier tonight) and give the devotional routine I came up with back on the 10th a test run before officially taking it up on the Kalends of January. (Hopefully the difficulties I’ve been having getting Thunderstruck with Wine ready for publication will be resolved by then!) In the meantime I figured I’d suss out some more of the book’s content.

To give it added depth, I used two systems in conjunction (The Words of Apollon and The Oracle of the Doors – both of which can be found at the Boukoleon) resulting in:

1-4-3: Know you better than I, fair Libya abounding in fleeces? Better the stranger than he who has trod it? Oh! Clever Therans!
3-2-5: Your strength is gone, and hard old age is upon you.
6-1-1: Apollon will not give any response to the Athenians on any matter until they have paid their debt to the Eleans.


1-4-3: Well, I’ve been down so Goddamn long that it looks like up to me
3-2-5: A million ways to spend your time
6-1-1: I see first lots of things which dance — then everything becomes gradually connected

Which got me thinking of Friedrich Hölderlin’s Der Tod des Empedokles:

The gods once loved him overmuch.
Yet he is not the first whom soon enough
They thrust into the senseless night,
Cast down from heights of their familiarity
Because he proved forgetful of the difference
In his extravagant delight, feeling for
Himself alone; so it went with him, he is
Now punished, in arid wastes abandoned—although
The final hour for him has not yet come;
Whoever has for so long been their darling
Will not long bear the insult to his soul,
I fear; his drowsy spirit will spark to flame
Anew to work out its revenge,
And, half-roused, a fearsome dreamer speaks
In him as once it spoke in those enthusiasts of old
Who wandered throughout Asia bearing reeds for staffs.

Do I write something on him as a tragic hero comparable to M. Antonius or do I find a way to work with the fragments of his Peri Phuseôs and Katharmoi? Perhaps both. I could go the Oliver Stone route and tell his story in dramatic form, but have Empedokles speak only in lines from his poems. Oh, I like that!

Triads are important in Orphic cosmology so I figured I should consult the gods again and have three sets of myth to work with right off the bat. (More than three poems will be coming from this since I’ve already got like six spun from Telines and Assunta alone.)

For this one I just asked Jim and got:

3-5-1: Such a long long road to seek it
1-2-1: silver and gold and the mountains of Spain.
4-2-4: You’re lost, little girl.
2-6-2: I’m not hungry
2-5-2: river flow, on and on it goes
5-3-6: flee the swarming wisdom
3-4-2: the devil was wiser
6-6-6: I am the Lizard King. I can do anything!

Which reads to me almost like a mash-up of:

But whenever a soul leaves the light of the sun–enter on the right, where one must, if one has kept all well and truly. Rejoice at the experience! This you have never before experienced. You have become a god instead of a man. You have fallen as a kid into milk. Hail, hail, as you travel on the right, through the Holy Meadow and Groves of Persephone. (Gold tablet from Thurii)


When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Oncius; realizing that he was outwitted, Poseidon too changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the Ladon. So the goddess has obtained two surnames, Fury because of her avenging anger, because the Arcadians call being wrathful “being furious,” and Bather (Lusia) because she bathed in the Ladon. The images in the temple are of wood, but their faces, hands and feet are of Parian marble. The image of Fury holds what is called the chest, and in her right hand a torch; her height I conjecture to be nine feet. Lusia seemed to be six feet high. Those who think the image to be Themis and not Demeter Lusia are, I would have them know, mistaken in their opinion. Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter, whose name they are not wont to divulge to the uninitiated, and a horse called Areion. For this reason they say that they were the first Arcadians to call Poseidon Horse. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.25.5-7)


Carried by her doves across the sky, Venus reached the Laurentian coast, where through his thatch of reeds the Numicius winds his way down to the neighbouring shore. She bade the river wash from Aeneas all that death could waste and waft it in his silent stream to sea. Obeying Venus’ bidding the horned god purged in his waters every mortal part and washed it all away–the best remained. So purified, his mother anointed him with heavenly perfume and made her son a god. (Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 599 ff)

I’m not happy with the idea of writing about the conception of Despoina. Between his role in the myths of Asterion and Taras and how he cropped up during the debate on animal sacrifice I’m starting to wonder if Poseidon doesn’t provide necessary but ambiguous tension in this body of myth like Apollo Soranos does. I’ve had this thought ever since T. P. Ward posted his poem Poseidon Hudsonios – which could be why I’ve not been successful in putting down roots and connecting with the local land-spirits since moving here. I’m getting cock-blocked by the Lord of Fishes just as Dionysos was when they competed for the lovely hand of Beroë.

And yet I know that I have to tell this story, and have known ever since I read this by Pausanias:

[8.37.1] From Acacesium it is four stades to the sanctuary of the Mistress. First in this place is a temple of Artemis Leader, with a bronze image, holding torches, which I conjecture to be about six feet high. From this place there is an entrance into the sacred enclosure of the Mistress. As you go to the temple there is a portico on the right, with reliefs of white marble on the wall. On the first relief are wrought Fates and Zeus surnamed Guide of Fate, and on the second Heracles wresting a tripod from Apollo. What I learned about the story of the two latter I will tell if I get as far as an account of Delphi in my history of Phocis.

[8.37.2] In the portico by the Mistress there is, between the reliefs I have mentioned, a tablet with descriptions of the mysteries. On the third relief are nymphs and Pans; on the fourth is Polybius, the son of Lycortas. On the latter is also an inscription, declaring that Greece would never have fallen at all, if she had obeyed Polybius in everything, and when she met disaster her only help came from him. In front of the temple is an altar to Demeter and another to the Mistress, after which is one of the Great Mother.

[8.37.3] The actual images of the goddesses, Mistress and Demeter, the throne on which they sit, along with the footstool under their feet, are all made out of one piece of stone. No part of the drapery, and no part of the carvings about the throne, is fastened to another stone by iron or cement, but the whole is from one block. This stone was not brought in by them, but they say that in obedience to a dream they dug up the earth within the enclosure and so found it. The size of both images just about corresponds to the image of the Mother at Athens.

[8.37.4] These too are works of Damophon. Demeter carries a torch in her right hand; her other hand she has laid upon the Mistress. The Mistress has on her knees a staff and what is called the box, which she holds in her right hand. On both sides of the throne are images. By the side of Demeter stands Artemis wrapped in the skin of a deer, and carrying a quiver on her shoulders, while in one hand she holds a torch, in the other two serpents; by her side a bitch, of a breed suitable for hunting, is lying down.

[8.37.5] By the image of the Mistress stands Anytus, represented as a man in armour. Those about the sanctuary say that the Mistress was brought up by Anytus, who was one of the Titans, as they are called. The first to introduce Titans into poetry was Homer, representing them as gods down in what is called Tartarus; the lines are in the passage about Hera’s oath. From Homer the name of the Titans was taken by Onomacritus, who in the orgies he composed for Dionysus made the Titans the authors of the god’s sufferings.

[8.37.6] This is the story of Anytus told by the Arcadians. That Artemis was the daughter, not of Leto but of Demeter, which is the Egyptian account, the Greeks learned from Aeschylus the son of Euphorion. The story of the Curetes, who are represented under the images, and that of the Corybantes (a different race from the Curetes), carved in relief upon the base, I know, but pass them by.

[8.37.7] The Arcadians bring into the sanctuary the fruit of all cultivated trees except the pomegranate. On the right as you go out of the temple there is a mirror fitted into the wall. If anyone looks into this mirror, he will see himself very dimly indeed or not at all, but the actual images of the gods and the throne can be seen quite clearly.

[8.37.8] When you have gone up a little, beside the temple of the Mistress on the right is what is called the Hall, where the Arcadians celebrate mysteries, and sacrifice to the Mistress many victims in generous fashion. Every man of them sacrifices what he possesses. But he does not cut the throats of the victims, as is done in other sacrifices; each man chops off a limb of the sacrifice, just that which happens to come to hand.

[8.37.9] This Mistress the Arcadians worship more than any other god, declaring that she is a daughter of Poseidon and Demeter. Mistress is her surname among the many, just as they surname Demeter’s daughter by Zeus the Maid. But whereas the real name of the Maid is Persephone, as Homer and Pamphos before him say in their poems, the real name of the Mistress I am afraid to write to the uninitiated.

[8.37.10] Beyond what is called the Hall is a grove, sacred to the Mistress and surrounded by a wall of stones, and within it are trees, including an olive and an evergreen oak growing out of one root, and that not the result of a clever piece of gardening. Beyond the grove are altars of Horse Poseidon, as being the father of the Mistress, and of other gods as well.

That’s just begging to be done in the style of Rhinthon, don’t you think?

I’ll give a signed copy of Thunderstruck with Wine to anyone who catches the Pythagorean pun I’ve embedded in this post.

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Although Carried Away will be arranged methodically I intend to write the individual pieces sporadically, as inspiration strikes. One should begin every important endeavor by consulting the gods, so I first asked what I should do to ensure the success of this project and was told to make offerings to Apollo and beware the sea, both of which I intend to do. Next I asked what my first poem should be about and got:

5-5-1: He will live longer.
2-2-4: Earth has swallowed them again.
5-1-5: Find a remedy for this misfortune.
5-1-1: Go to Lakedaimon, where the first man who invites you to dinner will be your healer.
3-2-3: Let us always call Soteira Meilichia with Mother Deo in holy song.
4-3-3: The sanctuary should be declared sacred and inviolate.

That reminded me of three separate stories.

1) Dionysos’ reception at Sparta, which I’ve stitched together here.

2) The Palikoi, whose story can be found here.

3) Telines of Gela, as told by Herodotos:

His descendants in time became and continue to be priests of the Chthonic Goddesses; this office had been won, as I will show, by Telines, one of their forefathers. There were certain Geloans who had been worsted in party strife and had been banished to the town of Maktorion, inland of Gela. These men Telines brought to Gela with no force of men but only the holy instruments of the goddesses’ worship to aid him. From where he got these, and whether or not they were his own invention, I cannot say; however that may be, it was in reliance upon them that he restored the exiles, on the condition that his descendants should be ministering priests of the goddesses. (Histories 7.153)

Though I intend to include all of these, Telines was giving me the strongest “feels” so I decided to do some research on Gela since I have only a rudimentary knowledge of this polis‘ history and religious traditions.

Wikipedia was surprisingly helpful and gave me a couple ideas I may be able to work into something. For instance, I somehow or another ended up on the page for the Italian silent film Cabira which has given me fodder for at least two or three poems.

One of the main sights of Gela (or Terranova di Sicilia, as it was known at the time) is the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Assunta, which I found interesting since that’s my mother’s baptismal name.

For you infidels, heathens and protestants, Assunta comes from the Latin assumptio, or the Taking of the Virgin Mary (in Greek the Dormition of the Mother of God or Koimesis Theotokou) as defined in the Apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus:

The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Pius XII referred to the “struggle against the infernal foe” as in Genesis 3:15 and to “complete victory over the sin and death” as in the Letters of Paul as a scriptural basis for the dogmatic definition, Mary being assumed to heaven as in 1 Corinthians 15:54: “then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Not only does this echo the wording of the message I got, it provides a nice parallel to the ascension of Thyone and the rapture of Kore. In fact, this element in particular stood out for me:

In some versions of the story the event is said to have taken place in Ephesus, in the House of the Virgin Mary, although this is a much more recent and localized tradition. The earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary’s life in Jerusalem. By the 7th century a variation emerged, according to which one of the apostles, often identified as St Thomas, was not present at the death of Mary, but his late arrival precipitates a reopening of Mary’s tomb, which is found to be empty except for her grave clothes. In a later tradition, Mary drops her girdle down to the apostle from heaven as testament to the event. This incident is depicted in many later paintings of the Assumption.

Which got me thinking about the kestos of Aphrodite, the robe of Chthonie and the mantle of Persephone, especially considering this idol of Our Lady of Assumption from San Luis Potosi:


Notice the starry girdle and the snake bearing a pomegranate? Yeah, that’s totally Mary. Totally.

Oh, it’s going to be fun putting that into a poem.

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Help me decide how to arrange Carried Away

I’m going to start working on Carried Away, my collection of stories and poems on Magna Graecian mythology, but I still don’t know how to arrange this book. So I’ve decided to turn to you, dear readers.

The options are:

* Chronologically – abduction of Persephone, local gods and heroes, travels of Herakles, Minos at the court of king Cocalos, early non-Greek settlements, Taras and Phalanthos, assorted heroes and historical events, medieval Catholic stuff and end on a modern note.
* Thematically – group the pieces by similar subject matters such as sex, ecstasy, remorse, death, etc.
* Topically – do them alphabetically and categorically so it goes something like gods, spirits, heroes, historical, etc.
* Completely random arrangement.

So here’s a poll. I’ll probably leave it up for a week and then disregard the results – but knowing what others think will help me reach my own decision.

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It’s cool to be a NYRD

The schedule for the New York Regional Diviner’s Conference is up and we’ve got some very exciting presenters!

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Tune in for the final episode tonight


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For libations, prayers and sacrifices placate souls

Last week, in the context of discussing a possible Orphic ritual involving the freeing of a caged bird I mentioned how frequently doves come up in the Starry Bull tradition. They’re linked to Aphrodite, Persephone, Ariadne, Columbina, John the Baptist and Hermes. Well, apparently they were also considered sacred to Dionysos at Delphi.

G. W. Elderkin, in The Sacred Doves of Delphi (Classical Philology, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1940), pp. 49-52) writes:

As Ion was about to partake of a banquet at Delphi, an ill-omened word from one of the servants caused him and the others present to cast upon the ground the libation which had been intended for the god. He then ordered the sacred craters to be filled anew with wine of Byblos. At this moment the doves which dwelt in the halls of Apollo flew into the banquet tent and drank of the rejected libation. One of the birds reeled and fell dead of the poisoned wine which had been intended for Ion. The presence of doves in the Delphic sanctuary was not a figment of Euripides. [...] A second significant detail of the description is that the doves drank wine. For this reason the poet happily called them a κώμος πελειών (1197) and enriched the Dionysiac flavor of the reference with the verb έβάκχευσευ (1204). That Euripides was not the first to give the dove a Dionysiac habit is shown by certain coins which have been assigned to Mallos in Cilicia, a Cretan colony. On these coins which are dated between 485 and 425 appears a dove with a body formed of a bunch of grapes, while closely related types of the same city have only the bunch of grapes. This curious grape dove may be the rock dove called οίνάς – a word which means not only “dove” but “vine” and “wine.” Aristotle, the earliest author known to have used the word, derived it from οίνος because of the wine-dark color of the dove. This derivation leaves out of account the bibulous propensities of the Delphic flock and the grape dove of Mallos where there was, as at Delphi, a most trustworthy oracle.

The article goes on to discuss the dove’s association with Apollon and Aphrodite as well as Dionysos, and there’s some interesting bits about Sicily and Phoenicia – but then it takes a detour into crazy land, proposing that the Pythia and other Apollonian oracular women received their inspiration from drinking water from springs or cisterns that had been mixed with wine. There were actually several Dionysian oracles where that was the medium through which the mantis achieved a state of entheos or enthousiasmos but that’s just not how things were done at Delphi, Klaros, etc. But hey, at least Elderkin wasn’t proposing that the Pythia ingested oleander.

I find this connection between Dionysos and doves very interesting and not just because it helps explain their strong presence in the Starry Bull tradition.

Birds, for the most part, aren’t found in the Dionysian menagerie. Bulls, goats, foxes, donkeys, spiders, beetles, large and small felines, deer, gazelle, pigs, dolphins, bears, elephants and whatever the fuck these animals here and here are – but not birds. The few exceptions I can think of are owls (which he transforms the Minyades into in some accounts), peacocks (found mostly in Ptolemaic Egypt) and eagles, though in all probability Pausanias was describing a statue of Sabazios:

Polykleitos of Argos made the image; it is like Dionysos in having buskins as footwear and in holding a kantharos in one hand and a thyrsos in the other, but an eagle sitting on the thyrsos does not fit in with the received accounts of Dionysos. (Description of Greece 8.31.4)

Interestingly, as I was tracking down the above quote I found another source pertaining to Dionysian doves – the Oinotrophoi:

Then virtuous Anchises said: ‘O chosen priest of Phoebus, am I wrong, or do I not remember that you had a son and four daughters, when I first saw your city?’ Shaking his head, bound with its white sacrificial fillets, Anius replied sadly: ‘Mightiest of heroes, you are not wrong: you saw me the father of five children, whom now you see almost bereft. What is the use of my absent son, who holds the island of Andros, that takes its name from him, and rules it in his father’s place? Delian Apollo gave him the power of prophecy. Bacchus Liber gave my female offspring other gifts, greater than those they hoped or prayed for. All that my daughter’s touched turned into corn or wine or the grey-green olives of Minerva, and employing them was profitable.

‘When Agamemnon, son of Atreus, ravager of Troy, learned of this (so that you do not think we escaped all knowledge of your destructive storm) he used armed force to snatch my unwilling daughters from a father’s arms, and ordered them to feed the Greek fleet, using their gift from heaven. Each escaped where they could. Two made for Euboea, and two for their brother’s island of Andros. The army landed and threatened war unless they were given up. Fear overcame brotherly affection, and he surrendered his blood-kin. It is possible to forgive the cowardly brother, since Aeneas and Hector, thanks to whom you held out till the tenth year, were not here to defend Andros.

Now they were readying the chains for the prisoners’ arms. They, while their arms were free, stretched them out to the sky, saying: “Help, O Father Bacchus; deliver us, we pray!” and he, who granted their gifts, helped them – if you call it help for them to lose in some strange way their human form, for I could not discover by what process they lost it, nor can I describe it. The end of this misfortune I did observe: they took wing, and became snow-white doves, the birds of your goddess-wife Anchises, Venus.’ (Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.640-674)

Which could actually serve as an aition for the Orphic rite described in the Derveni papyrus:

For libations, prayers and sacrifices placate souls. An incantation by magoi can dislodge daimones that have become a hindrance; daimones that are a hindrance are vengeful souls. This is why the magoi perform the sacrifice, as they are paying a blood-price. Onto the offerings they make libations of water and milk, with both of which they also made drink-offerings. They sacrifice cakes which are countless and many-humped, because the souls too are countless. Initiates make a first sacrifice to the Eumenides in the same way as magoi do; for the Eumenides are souls. For these reasons a person who intends to make offerings to the gods, first frees a bird, having a hope of being sometime in the netherworld with the souls, when the evil (?) … but they are souls … this (?), but as many (souls) as … of … but (?) they wear …


Even more fascinating, since that rite is supposed to effect the liberation of the soul from spiritual bondage and ancestral guilt – the banded owl butterfly’s scientific name is Caligo atreus dionysos. Psuchai in Greek can mean either “soul” or “butterfly” and the Atreidae are practically the definition of a tragically doomed family.

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. (Plato, Republic 2.364a–365b)

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Dragging my soul to a beautiful land

Even though it’s usually one of the final steps, I haven’t been able to work on my book of Magna Graecian mythology until I got the title pinned down, which has been immensely frustrating since none of the ones I initially proposed were really clicking.

But then tonight I did some divination, which resulted in:

Carried Away: Strange Spirits Volume II

Man, that works on like twenty different levels!

And just in case I had any lingering doubts, as I went to save the file that will eventually become my next book this song by Nick Cave started playing and it’s got some fucking spookily relevant lyrics.

I can’t wait to begin working on this collection of stories and poems. I’m debating whether I want to arrange it chronologically and geographically, by god or spirit or make it more random and fluid. Each has its own merits and disadvantages but I suppose I don’t need to make a final decision until I’m close to completion, which probably won’t be until late spring or early summer. Possibly sooner, if I get truly obsessive about this project.

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blessed are the pure of heart


Meanwhile another man, who was unrobed, walked by, wearing a crimson loincloth, and throwing the body of the child on its back, he cut it up, and tore out its heart and placed it upon the fire. Then, he took up the cooked heart and sliced it up to the middle. And on the surface of the slices he sprinkled barley groats and wet it with oil; and when he had sufficiently prepared them, he gave them to the initiates, and those who held [a slice?] he ordered to swear in the blood of the heart that they would neither give up nor betray [--------], not even if they are led off to prison, nor yet if they be tortured (PColon 3328, B 1 Recto, lines 9-16.)

I’ve been thinking about the communal debate on θυσία and honestly, if I wasn’t already ambivalent about associating with neopagans this sure as Thyestes would have tipped me over. How quickly and forcefully they jumped from a discussion of what amounts to a religious barbeque to proposing murder and cannibalism is really kind of disturbing. Are they walking around with these thoughts in their head all the time, bubbling beneath the surface and waiting for some stressful situation to bring them forth into real actions? Probably a result of suppressing their normal, healthy desires and responses because of that ‘harm none’ and ‘threefold rule’ of theirs. My advice? Get thee to a specialist in rites of cleansing and appeasement before y’all lose your shit or, failing that, get thee to a sophist who can explain why reductio ad absurdum arguments aren’t sound logic.

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Dance magic dance

That last post may be a bit too densely tangled for folks to follow, which is why I included the key in the title. What we have here is a bricolage tale of an otherworldly spinner (appearing sometimes as a starry-eyed youth and sometimes a blood-drenched beast) who lives in a castle of glass with the underground girl and their host of strange spiritsheroes and ash-covered clowns. Everything about them is constantly changing, and yet the dance remains forever the same. That, my friends, is how an Orphic makes mythology.

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Spider of Mars

In case you haven’t noticed I have a thing for spiders. Well, really one Spider in particular – but that’s led to a general curiosity about all things arachnid. Over the years I’ve read tons of books on spider biology and lore, eventually coming to narrow my focus to material pertaining to Greece, Italy and West Africa which seem to be the cultural strains most relevant to my Spider. I thought I’d read everything – and I do mean everything: have you ever combed through Pliny and the corpus of Peripatetic zoological treatises? I have and there’s precious little joy in such an endeavor. In fact when I die I’m going to make a special detour on my way to the symposion of Dionysos to track down Aristotle so I can kick him in his ghost-nuts.

Needless to say I was a little surprised when I came across this scholion on Nikander’s Theriaka:

And Theophilos, of the school of Zenodotos, records that in Attica there were two siblings; Phalanx, a boy and the girl was named Arachne. They were tutored by Athene, Phalanx learning the arts of war from her and Arachne the art of weaving. However the goddess came to abhor them since they had intercourse with one another, transforming them into animals destined to be eaten by their own offspring. (Schol. in Nic., Ther. 12.a)

That’s almost a better origin story than we find in Ovid. Of course that potentially complicates things since I’d filled in the back story a bit, proposing a seduction by Dionysos similar to the one hypothesized for Erigone (herself a double for Ariadne) and even found a possible son of Arachne and Dionysos who parallels Iakchos and was likely connected to the Lenaia festival. On the other hand what I’ve been unraveling may be the story of the Lydian Arachne – whereas a while back I stumbled upon a Persian Arachne as well, and now, apparently, there is an Attic Arachne to add to the list. Not that I believe them to be unrelated – indeed, this adds an interesting twist to the thread.

For instance, the relationship between Arachne and Phalanx has an obvious parallel to the consanguineous unions of the Ptolemies, not to mention Ariadne herself. (And I don’t mean Asterios, though yes, there is that; people often forget that Ariadne and the son of Semele have a common ancestor in Europa.) And of course, transgressive sexuality is a strong element in tarantism and before that the Bacchic cults in Southern Italy.

Which leads to the next interesting bit of this. What Theophilos actually says in the Greek is that Athene taught Phalanx hoplomachia which are war dances such as the Pyrrhikos:

But the Pyrrhic dance is not preserved now among any other people of Greece; and at the same time that it has fallen into disuse, their wars also have been brought to a conclusion; but it continues in use among the Lacedaemonians alone, being a sort of prelude preparatory to war: and all who are more than five years old in Sparta learn to dance the Pyrrhic dance. But the Pyrrhic dance as it exists in our time, appears to be a sort of Dionysiac dance, and a little more pacific than the old one; for the dancers carry thyrsi instead of spears, and they point and dart canes at one another, and carry torches. And in their dances, they portray Dionysos and the Indians, and the story of Pentheus: and they require for the Pyrrhic dance the most beautiful melodies, and what are called the “stirring” tunes. (Athenaios, Deipnosphistai 631a-b)

Now you may be linking that to the circle dance of the Thyiads – but I have something much more specific in mind:

The tarantati want ribbons, chains, precious garments, and when they are brought they receive them with inexplicable joy, and with great reverence they thank the person who brought them. All of the aforementioned items are placed in an orderly fashion along the pen where the dancers make use of one or another item from time to time, according to the impulses the attack gives them. [...] In the castle of Motta di Montecorvino I had the occasion to see five tarantati dance at the same time and inside of the same stockade: they were four ploughmen and a beautiful country lass. Each had taken an alias, from among the names of ancient kings, no less. They treated each other in such a way that reciprocal affection was observed, and compliments were reiterated to the great admiration of the spectators. They happily performed the usual course of the dance over three days; the last evening, before taking leave, they politely asked for a squadron of men at arms, ready to fire a salvo and that was brought for them. [...] Afterwards they took a deep bow and said: we will see each other next year and then they collapsed. When they came to they were greatly fatigued and the wretches did not remember a single thing. Finding themselves in the midst of such a multitude of people they only begged to be taken home. (Domenico Sangenito to Antonio Bulifon, Lettere memorabilia istorche, politiche ed erudite 141ff)

This is not the only instance where the afflicted tarantati took on the persona of long-dead soldiers; Ernesto de Martino devotes several pages of his book to a discussion of their fondness for martial music, swords and other accoutrements of war but I never paid much attention to it because my taranta, according to his system of classification, is melancholic and libertine. Suddenly that aspect of it makes so much sense, and I foresee a trip through La terra del rimorso in my future.

I find it interesting that I should be given this piece of the puzzle now, considering how much Daktyloi, Korybantes, Telchines and Kouretes have been coming up. And of course Phalanx, the eponymous hero of the phalanx formation, has much in common with Phalanthos and Taras and Niko and Philemenos who were depicted as hoplites and cavalrymen. I feel like I’ve been introduced to a whole new member of the family!

And while I was seeing what I could turn up on Phalanx I came across this:

Among classes of spiders the Greeks also include a phalangion which they distinguish by the name of ‘wolf.’ There is also a third kind of phalangion, a hairy spider with an enormous head. When this is cut open, there are said to be found inside two little worms, which, tied in deer skin as an amulet on women before sunrise, act as a contraceptive, as Caecilius has told us in his Commentarii. There is another phalangion called rhox, like a black grape, with a very small mouth under the abdomen, and very short legs as though not fully grown. Its bite is as painful as a scorpion’s sting, forming in the urine as it were spider’s webs. The asterion is exactly like it, except that it is marked with white streaks. Its bite makes the knees weak. Least dangerous of all is the ash-coloured spider which spins its web all over our walls to catch flies. For the bites of all spiders remedial is a cock’s brain with a little pepper taken in vinegar and water, five ants also taken in drink, the ash of sheep’s dung applied in vinegar, or spiders themselves of any sort that have rotted in oil. (Pliny, Natural History 29.86)

Did you catch that?

Say, Mr. Spider – what’s your name again?

Ἀστέριος ὄνομα.

Incidentally Theophilos was an Italiote Greek who wrote a history of Sicily that was still considered authoritative in the time of pseudo-Plutarch. Perhaps he was drawing on local traditions about Arachne even if the story was transposed to Attica – traditions that persisted underground through time.

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interesting things

Freya Jobbins art doll

Art by Freya Jobbins

Ruadhán has some interesting things in the works:

I decided to look up ancient formS, yes, plural, of the Hellenic alphabet, and holy hells, there’s nearly two dozen surviving alphabets; seriously, if all the Hellenic tribes couldn’t have the same alphabet, what makes some people think that they had universal culture and practises? Or that even a pan-Hellenic practise can work for all Hellenists, today?

So, I’m thinking I’m going to start creating a Boeotian variant of the Greek Alphabet Oracle with the Boeotian alphabet and tiles; maybe make them a specialty thing for $12-$15 versus $10 (the standard set I just sold), for the extra work put in for re-associating letters. If anyone wants to make requests for *tiles* for other archaic alphabets, let me know, I’ll see what I can do.

Almost forgot, if the Hellenic alphabet tiles and the New Boeotian Calender don’t interest you and my paintings are too expensive, but buttons for your jacket or messenger bag do, please see what I have here.

If that doesn’t interest you, but supporting who I hope is one of your favourite bloggers does, you can donate to my Patreon, as little as $1/month! Yeah, fat boy’s got goals, but every little bit helps.

ETA: Alright, I just went to go pay this month’s electric bill, and guess what? One of the roommates did not pay at all last month, and another one only paid $5 of what was due $18.50 EACH, so I just paid WAY more than I needed to in order to keep the lights on, or it was going to get a shut-off TODAY. On other words, I REALLY need to sell a painting, or I have to drain my savings to take my cat to the vet. I’m willing to come down $10 on each, if that would sweeten the deal for anyone. Please. I’m desperate at this point.

ETA: Just posted the latest tiles! Go see!

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All Good Things …


Be sure to tune in for this week’s episode of Wyrd Ways Radio as it’ll be our last. We had a good run and helped foster quality dialogue on some really important issues in the pagan and polytheist communities. I am honored to have been part of something as cool as this and proud that we gave such diverse segments of our communities a voice to talk about the things that were important to them. My biggest regret is that we never got John Halstead on as a guest.

We plan to keep Wednesday’s show open-ended, so feel free to call in whether you’re looking to reminisce or stir up controversy. And hey, since we don’t have to worry about losing the show you can use as many expletives as you want, though it’ll be hard to top Anomalous Thracian!

We’ll go live on Nov. 19th at 10:00pm EST and probably take the full hour and a half. The number to call is 347-308-8222.

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Very evocative of the mysteries of the tradition.


As far as incenses for this rite go, some traditional suggestions are given here. Or one can use this special blend that was commissioned for the Starry Bull tradition. Dver describes it as follows:

It includes:
- dragonsblood resin (for the blood of the Python, a nod to Apollon)
- benzoin (called storax by the ancients and featured in the Orphic Hymns)
- myrrh (also in the Hymns)
- patchouli (this seemed appropriate for Hekate, plus it’s from the mint family giving it a distant Haides connection)
- cinnamon and cloves (trade spices, associated with Hermes)
- dried poppy petals (technically associated more with Demeter than Persephone, but has always evoked the latter for me)
- red wine (Dionysos of course, which was used to bind everything together, before drying and grinding)

The result is a powder which produces a dark, sweet, heady scent when burned on charcoal tablets. A little goes a long way! Very evocative of the mysteries of the tradition.

You’d better act fast as there’s only a limited quantity and she may not make another batch for a while!

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A Bacchic Orphic devotional rite

The rite:

Cleanse with chernips.
Apply ash, clay or gypsum.
Put on prayer shawl.
Ring a bell seven times.
Inscribe or trace a labyrinth.
Light a candle.
Offer incense.
Make a triple libation of:
- wine
- milk
- water
Offer grain.
Offer fruit or flowers.
Offer honey.
Offer an egg.
Recite a hymn.
Spend some time in personal prayer, meditation and communion with the gods and spirits.
Thank the predecessors and preservers of the tradition.
Ask blessings for your community.
Draw a symbol from a jar and meditate on its meaning.
Draw a devotional act and perform it or make preparations to do so if it is not something that can be done at shrine.
Close the rite by ringing a bell three times.

Chernips is created by extinguishing a burning branch or leaf of laurel or some other sacred plant in a basin of water. The water is then used to purify and consecrate the space, objects and one’s self through sprinkling or asperging.

The ash is made by burning previous sacrifices, aromatic or sacred herbs and sheets of paper on which prayers, hymns and blessings have been written. One may also use other white, powdery substances in place of the ash. One may cover their face with it or inscribe sacred characters such as a spiral, bull’s horns, an eight-point star, the letters delta or omega, a lightning bolt, a snake or the Orphic egg. One does this for purification, protection, empowerment and intensification of focus.

The prayer shawl is a bolt of red, black or white fabric. One may inscribe sacred characters on it, blessings and important texts or it may be left blank. If it is linen it represents the veil of the mysteries; if wool the removal of impurity. Either way it is the sacrificial cloak of Orpheus. It may be draped over the shoulders like a stole or used to cover the head.

Each ring of the bell represents one of the seven pieces that Dionysos was torn into and a string on the lyre of Orpheus which harmoniously restores.

One may inscribe the labyrinth on a sheet of paper or the surface of the shrine’s altar; alternately if one has a permanent representation of the labyrinth on their shrine one may trace it’s pattern with their finger. This opens the door to the realm of the gods and spirits; one’s offerings should be placed on or near the labyrinth so that they will be received by them.

The light and warmth of the candle draws them.

Each of the offerings are deeply symbolic; one should contemplate their associations as they are being made. One may come up with set phrases or chants, speak ex tempore or make the offerings in reverent silence as suits one’s ritual preferences and style.

One may recite an ancient hymn, such as those by Orpheus, Homer, Proklos, Julian etc.; one may recite the appropriate Starry Bull communal hymn or hymn from Thunderstruck for the day; or one may recite a piece of one’s own composition or a favorite poem that reminds one of the god or spirit being honored. One should reflect deeply on what one is reciting and how the words feel as they leave one’s mouth. Experiment with tone and cadence and breathing; try chanting or singing as this powerfully enhances the recitation. One should sit quietly for several moments after finishing, opening one’s self up to the presence of the gods and spirits, reflecting on their nature and powers and stories, as well as one’s previous experiences with them.

The symbols to be placed in the jar may be found here. One should let the symbols’ complex and interconnected associations flood one’s mind, particularly as they relate to the god or spirit one is honoring.

The method of devotional pithomanteia is explained here.

One rings the bell three times to send one’s worship above, below and through the labyrinth and to open doors so that the blessings of the gods and spirits may flow back from these directions into one’s life.

Though not included in the outline of this rite, one may give their blood while making the other offerings in order to strengthen their bond with the god or spirit. However one should confirm through divination that this blood sacrifice is actually desired before one does so.

Feel free to adapt this rite to suit your needs.

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