What’s next?

After spending a couple days mulling over what I could teach, I realized the three-pronged approach I’d come up with just wasn’t clicking for me. I have developed a very idiosyncratic teaching style that works very well for certain topics and not so well for others, so why not play to my strengths and leave the other stuff for those who are better suited to it? I may draft a rough curriculum and then bring in guest lecturers who specialize in those areas to cover them at some point, but for now I’m going to be focusing on two separate but complimentary tracks.

The first, which I’m calling “The Foundations of Bacchic Orphism” will explore a series of central concepts within the tradition through readings, exercises, online discussions and a weekly chat. We’ll spend a month on each of them, and I’ll keep this going until I feel people are solidly enough grounded in it that I can begin training them in the formal structures which will enable them to serve as Orpheotelestai or specialists in Bacchic Orphic ritual within the Starry Bull tradition. One doesn’t have to have that end goal to take these foundational classes, and one may drop in or out on a monthly basis as they wish – though I will expect to see competency in these areas demonstrated to my satisfaction before allowing one to progress to the next level. Considering the subject matter that we’ll be discussing I am requiring that students be 21 years or older (though I’ll consider waiving that in certain special cases) and pay a $10 a month class fee or barter of equivalent value.

The second class, which I’m calling “Further Down the Spiral” was prompted by the realization that in my public writings on this tradition I’ve tended to emphasize certain gods and spirits over others, despite the fact that they’re all important and deeply interwoven giving this tradition the unique features it possesses. So for the next year I’ll be seeking to rectify that by providing a guided tour of these beings and their place within the Starry Bull strain of Bacchic Orphism. There will be daily texts to study, in depth readings and discussions on their nature, history, preferences and role within the tradition, weekly group rituals in honor of them and a monthly chat. There are no restrictions or requirements save a separate class fee of $10 a month or barter of equivalent value. This class can be taken independently of the other, though they are intended to supplement each other as the foundational concepts being taught in the first class fall within the domain of the god or spirit we will be getting to know in the second.

I’m going to be working on the curricula for these over the next couple weeks and officially open enrollment when I get back from hosting the bebakcheumenia at Many Gods West with Bakcheion in August, with the first lessons being sent out in September.

If you’d like to pay now to help support us in putting on the bebakcheumenia I’ll give you $40 off a full year’s tuition on both classes. ($200 instead of $240.)

Hope to see you guys there!

Note that these classes are being offered outside the auspices of any association or organization and that they represent my own unique interpretation of the Starry Bull tradition which carries no expectation of authority. Anyone from any group or tradition is welcome to attend and participate at whatever level they are comfortable with, though some matters simply are not up for debate and refusal to abide by the basic rules of etiquette (as arbitrarily defined by me) will result in swift dismissal without refund. I may be a chill and laidback tyrant, but I’m still a tyrant.

Foundations of Bacchic Orphism
1. Bricolage
2. Ordeal
3. Charisma
4. Miasma
5. Frenzy
6. Persuasion
7. Entheogens
8. Illusion
9. Desire
10. Liberation
11. Virtue
12. Chance

Further down the spiral: getting to know the rest of the Starry Bull pantheon
1. Akoites
2. Artemis
3. John the Baptist
4. Orestes
5. Thyia
6. The Sirens
7. Medeia
8. Arlecchino
9. Pasiphae
10. Ino-Leukotheia
11. Herakles
12. Hermes

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Coming together to celebrate Dionysos at Many Gods West 2015

To learn how you can help, click here.

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Rashīd ad-Dīn Sannion addresses you.

You know what I discovered over the last week I’ve been on an internet hiatus? I really like it out here in the wilds. Big surprise, huh?

Truth is, it wasn’t a complete break from the ‘net. A crazy amount of stuff has been going on with the Toys of Dionysos class and the planning team for the bebakcheumenia at Many Gods West. I may even have been spending more time online the last couple days than I normally do. The difference is, I wasn’t blogging, or reading blogs, or stalking people on social media for a change. And it was nice. Real nice.

I mean, there was still clashing ideas, and text-based misunderstandings, and even a little personal conflict thrown into the mix, but nothing we couldn’t sort out by talking to one another like real human beings and not just names on a screen. Significantly, all the effort expended is going to result in something tangible. Something that can’t really be said about most online interactions.

So I’ve decided to considerably scale back my webesence. I’ll keep the House of Vines up because I’ve collected a lot of valuable information here over the years and it’d be a shame to see that lost, but I won’t be posting any new content except announcements for upcoming classes, book releases or assorted projects I’m involved with.

Specifically, I’m going to be rolling out a three-tier class system.

The first will cover the foundations of practice within the Starry Bull tradition and will consist of a series of independent modules on various topics such as making offerings, keeping festivals, divination and the like. There’ll be reading assignments, exercises, group discussion and a weekly chat. People can remain in the class indefinitely or just pop in for one of the modules. I’ll be offering this free of charge to anyone who’s interested as a way of building community. At some point I may pass these off to competent individuals who have already gone through them.

Next I’ll be running an introduction to the gods and spirits of the Starry Bull tradition course. This will be done according to the old “God of the Month” template I came up with in my Greco-Egyptian days, where a divinity will be chosen through divination for study and devotional engagement each month. We’ll learn about them through research, reflection, formal worship, devotional exercises, art projects and group discussion. We will also meet monthly for a chat. The price of admission to be part of this group will be $10 a month, or equivalent value in barter. (I’d much rather barter than swap filthy lucre.)

Finally I’ll be offering classes on more esoteric topics, such as working with ecstasy and related altered states of consciousness, Bacchic Orphic healing and magical techniques and material pertaining to the mysteries of the Starry Bull tradition. Like the first category this will consist of a series of independent modules, though some of them may have other classes as a prerequisite or the demonstration of an equivalent level of knowledge and proficiency. I am going to be very selective about who I let into these classes as they will come to represent the heart of our tradition. The classes will be offered on a sliding scale of $30-75 or trade of equal value.

Most of the books I write henceforth will be outgrowths of these classes.

Considering all of that, even if I wanted to I wouldn’t have the time or resources to keep this blog going.

I admit I’m a little anxious about this decision. In this digital age it’s very difficult to do anything if you aren’t constantly promoting yourself. I can offer the greatest curriculum imaginable but if I’m not on social media or blogging or doing the pagan scene festival circuit how are people going to hear about these classes?

I don’t have that part figured out, and I don’t need to. If this tradition is meant to thrive, I trust its gods and spirits will ensure the right people find their way to these teachings.

And if it doesn’t work out that way, meh. At least I’m out of the cesspool that is our blogosphere.

Cheers, bastards!

kid-flipping-the-bird

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Fuck the internet.

rummelsnuff-2011

Fuck the internet.

I’m running off to the woods to found a cult of Rummelsnuff.

See you guys on the other side.

– Sannion

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Rummelsnuff the heresiarch

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

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

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

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

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Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον

typhonic seth, an abel substitute, hangs nailed to a tree,
eyes bulging madly from an asinine face.
the ignorant rulers gather round and jeer the sacrament of bloody appeasement
while he howls the barbarous names of the headless one,
the primordial one who bathes in the river styx,
the blind and gibbering one who made the world in his image
after he was spurned by the silent one
whom he lusted after like a whore.
“father of freedom, why have you abandoned me?”
he suffers so exquisitely, this multiform monster, this kingly beast
— and all the while his double moves unseen among the crowd
smiling at the delusion of those who think that the spirit of holiness can be contained in jars of clay.
did he not tell them exactly who he was when he said, “i am” and the water became wine?
it was in egypt that he was given the crown of mystery and robe of light,
when the alphabet of desire was carved into his flesh by intoxicated, cave-dwelling magicians.
when he comes again he won’t be wearing a mask.

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What is your life’s purpose?

Although I’m a Magna Graecian polytheist one of my personal heroes has always been Rabbi Akiva, the so-called Father of the Talmud. And though his story is largely legendary and full of historical inaccuracies, I still find it deeply inspiring.

Akiva began his life as a shepherd in the hills and lived the simplest and crudest of existences, unable even to read. But one day he was struck with a vision of the beauty of the Torah and filled with such a longing to read the text for himself that he began to teach himself how to read. Unfortunately he was able to grasp only the most rudimentary of words on his own, so he enrolled himself in school and though a man in his middle years studied alongside five year old children. In time, however, his diligent study paid off and he became one of the greatest sages of his era.

He accomplished many remarkable things in his life, chief among them being his laying the groundwork for the development of the Talmud, that huge body of commentary on the Torah and the religious and philosophical laws which developed from it. At the time all of this material existed only in oral form, a mass of interwoven and contradictory traditions which few outside of the great centers of learning had access to. Ever since the Babylonian captivity the Jews as a body had been dispersed to the far corners of the globe, and they were in danger of losing their identity through disintegration and assimilation into the broader foreign cultures that surrounded them. What they needed was a tangible, organized, and systematized form of these guiding principles and traditions so that the Jew might have the resources to maintain his identity and his contact with his own culture and nation wherever he might find himself.

Years later, Rabbi Akiva’s preaching brought him into conflict with the Roman authorities who tried him for sedition and sentenced him to a gruesome and terrible punishment – being flayed alive – in order to make an example of him to his students. Before he was to be executed one of his pupils spoke with him, saying, “How can you be so calm? How can you maintain your faith in the midst of your own painful and humiliating demise?” To which Rabbi Akiva replied, “My whole life has led up to this moment. Up until now I have only been able to serve God according to my means and might. But now I can serve him with my whole life.”

And it so happened that when the Romans began to execute him it was the start of the evening prayers and though Rabbi Akiva was in excruciating pain he managed to recite the prayer in full and expired in the best of all possible ways, performing an act of devotion to his God.

What impresses me so much about this story – even though its historical merit is questionable at best – is that Rabbi Akiva comes across as a supreme example of the true Thelemite, someone who dedicates their whole existence to discovering and fulfilling their True Will, allowing nothing to stand in their path. When Akiva got the first intimation of his destiny he did everything in his power to fulfill it, even though it must have seemed frighteningly impossible for the illiterate shepherd to begin to learn how to read. And indeed, when he proved incapable of teaching himself more than the basics of Hebrew he was willing to humble himself and learn beside five year olds. I don’t imagine that that was a very easy thing for him to do, nor do I imagine that those children were very kind to the rugged, barely civilized country-dweller that they suddenly found in their midst. Yet, through it all he persevered, becoming one of the greatest sages of his generation, and the man who was, in no small part, responsible for the survival and flourishing of his people in the centuries to come. And when he met his end, he did so serenely absorbed in his calling, making his life the ultimate sacrifice to his God.

His life and work offers much for reflection. Nowhere are we told that it will be easy to follow our True Wills, or that to do so will come without sacrifice. Indeed, our callings often demand much from us, and the price can sometimes seem impossibly daunting. But when we have truly discovered our calling we burn and ache to accomplish it, like a bee driven uncontrollably to pollinate flowers, and when we’re truly, fully tapped into that, we don’t even stop to calculate the risks, to consider the hardships, to wonder at the seeming impossibility of it all – we just do it, because that’s what we were created to do. All of the excuses we can muster amount to nothing in the face of Destiny – and if an ignorant shepherd can become one of the world’s greatest sages, what wonders are you capable of manifesting in your life?

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Proudly display your horns

Silenus_pushkin01

Here there is also a temple of Silenus, which is sacred to Silenus alone, and not to him in common with Dionysus. Methe (Drunkenness) is offering him wine in a cup. That the Silenuses are a mortal race you may infer especially from their graves, for there is a tomb of a Silenus in the land of the Hebrews, and of another at Pergamus. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 6.24.8)

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There’s no party like a Bacchic party.

I was thinking of calling the last post Fear of a Black Thracian, proud of my clever and contemporary allusion (especially since the post is all about the σπαραγμός of the body politic; that’s like an inception of metaphors there) and then with dawning horror I realized … that album is now twenty-five years old. Two years younger than Cobain was when he made his journey West.

Holy fuck, I’m old. How did this happen?!?

Uhm … you do get the Public Enemy reference, right?

The album features elaborate sound collages that incorporate varying rhythms, numerous samples, media sound bites, and eccentric music loops, and reflect the content’s confrontational tone. Conceived during the golden age of hip hop, its assemblage of reconfigured and recontextualized aural sources preceded the sample clearance system that later emerged in the music industry. (Wikipedia s.v. Fear of a Black Planet)

I’m soooooooooo old.

But thankfully not too old to revel with the one who set them free:

But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysos, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as iron when it has been forged in the fire.   Will not this softer disposition, in the first place, render each one of them more ready and less ashamed to sing chants and incantations, in the presence, not of a large company of strangers, but of a small number of intimate friends? (Plato, Laws 2.666b-d)

basquiat Jean-Michel Basquiat, Black Dionysos and member of the 27 club

And don’t worry, ladies, Dionysos will still love you when you’re no longer young and beautiful:

Gerarai (Greek: Γεραραί) were priestesses of Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans) in ancient Greek ritual. They presided over sacrifices and participated in the festivals of Theoinia and Iobaccheia that took place during the month of Anthesteria, among other duties. Fourteen in all, they were either sworn in by the Athenian basilinna or her husband, the archon basileus. One of their primary duties during the Anthesteria was to assist in performing the sacred marriage rites of the queen to Dionysus, and thus held to secrecy. According to a folk etymology, they were called Gerarai, from the Greek word γηράσκω, gerasko, “I grow old”, because older women were chosen for the role. (Wikipedia s.v. Gerarai)

I find that heartening – no matter how much one’s life and circumstances change, no matter the circuitous route one takes to get there, there Dionysos is. Both in this world, and beyond.

SEG 28.659:
βίος. θάνατος. βίος. ἀλήθεια. Ζαγρεύς. Διόνυσος

Life. Death. Life. Truth. Zagreus. Dionysos.

SEG 28.660:
εἰρήνη. πόλεμος. ἀλήθεια. ψεῦδος. Διόνυσος

Peace. War. Truth. Lie. Dionysos

SEG 28.661:
Διόνυσος. ἀλήθεια. σῶμα. ψυχή

Dionysos. Truth. Body. Soul.

Or as P.S.V.L. says: Haec est unde, Haec est unde, Haec est unde vita venit!

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And so he subdued them when they grew divided.

CŽleur,

I was doing some research on Isidoros the Dionysian priest who led the Βουκόλοι in a bloody revolt against the Roman occupiers of Egypt:

And those called the Boukoloi created a revolt in Egypt and joined with the other Egyptians led by the priest Isidoros. First, in the cloaks of women, they tricked the centurion since they appeared to be the women of the Boukoloi approaching to give him money for their men, and they struck him down. His companion they sacrificed swearing an oath on his entrails and then eating them. Of these men Isidoros was the bravest. Then, when they defeated the Romans in battle, they advanced towards Alexandria and would have reached there had not Cassius been sent against them from Syria and contrived to upset their unity and divide them from each other, for they were too many and too desperate for him to dare to come against them all together. And so he subdued them when they grew divided. (Cassius Dio, Roman History LXXII 4)

When I came across this tantalizing title:

afrogreeks

Afro-Greeks examines the reception of Classics in the English-speaking Caribbean, from about 1920 to the beginning of the 21st century. Emily Greenwood focuses on the ways in which Greco-Roman antiquity has been put to creative use in Anglophone Caribbean literature, and relates this regional classical tradition to the educational context, specifically the way in which Classics was taught in the colonial school curriculum. Discussions of Caribbean literature tend to assume an antagonistic relationship between Classics, which is treated as a legacy of empire, and Caribbean literature. While acknowledging this imperial and colonial backstory, Greenwood argues that Caribbean writers such as Kamau Brathwaite, C. L. R. James, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott have successfully appropriated Classics and adapted it to the cultural context of the Caribbean, creating a distinctive, regional tradition.

I’d be awfully interested in reading that if the price tag wasn’t so high, alas and alack, as it interestingly parallels Wole Soyinka’s adaptation of the Bakchai, which seems pertinent considering what’s going on:

Donyell Shank lives in the Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore. Her daughter was a friend of Freddie Gray. In an interview at her house this week, she talked about rioting and what it means to be a “thug” in a neighborhood where the police are mistrusted: “It started with people writing reports. That didn’t do anything. People started getting on camera, pointing the police out. That didn’t do no good. Now, we riot, and we got attention. What’s the difference between this riot and what Martin Luther King did?…The only thing is we did not have a leader here. That’s the only difference…What is the difference? Just young children leading younger children. I don’t care what kind of name you put on them: thugs, whatever. They opened the door for us. If I’m walking down the street getting robbed, and the police come, I get questioned: ‘Ma’am, what did you do?’ All I have to do is tell a thug, and they’re going after that person. They’re going to get that person off of me immediately.”

Group_of_Thugs

Now that’s political action I can get behind!

I also learned about the Black Greeks of Thrace:

There are not many Greek historians that have dealt with the enigma of the black Greeks of Thrace, since not many people know of them. The exception is Nicholas Xirotiris, Professor of History and Ethnology, Democritus University of Thrace, who throws some light on this historical mystery:

“It is known that in Thrace African tribes arrived in the late 18th and early 19th century. Transferred there from Egyptian sultans who wanted laborers and serfs on their land. Like Muhammad Ali [Pasha of Egypt and a native of Kavala], who owned places like Xanthi and Kavala, these Africans were brought mainly from Sudan which was then a colony of Egypt. ”

When Thrace was unified with Greece, these black people were (not being able to return home) living on the mountainous part of Thrace and naturalized as Greeks. “In the ’40s,” explains Mr. Xirotiris, “during the German Occupation, and because of persecution from Bulgarians in the mountains of Xanthi, they descended to the plains. Then, for the first time there were mixed marriages between Africans and Pomaks. ”

So much history we’re never taught in school. Gee, I wonder why that is.

Meanwhile another man, who was naked, walked by, wearing a crimson loincloth, and throwing the body of the pais (child or servant) 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. Fragment of Lollianos’ Phoenikika.)

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for the god makes no distinctions

One of the reasons that I am staunchly apolitical – aside from the fact that the system is so corrupt and broken at this point that the only way true change will occur is through violent insurrection, making all of these protests nothing more than masturbatory self-congratulating theater – is that I am a Dionysian.

You see, Dionysos is a radically inclusive god. One of the first and most powerful expressions of this in the literary record comes from Euripides’ Bakchai, in the famous speech of Tieresias the prophet:

Those old traditions from our ancestors,
the ones we’ve had as long as time itself,
no argument will ever overthrow,
in spite of subtleties sharp minds invent.
Will someone say I disrespect old age,
if I intend to dance with ivy on my head?
Not so, for the god makes no distinctions—
whether the dancing is for young or old.
He wants to gather honours from us all,
to be praised communally, without division.

Much further back, a thousand years and more, the archaeological record confirms this. In the handful of references to the god in Linear B we already find him associated with women, with tenant-farmers, and with kings. Every class, every category, every permutation of humanity is welcome in his rites.

While it’s true that his worship could give expression to revolutionary tendencies:

Dionysus was left to the powerless of Italy and they embraced him. In 185 – 184, the slave shephards of Apulia – the heel of the Italian “boot” – revolted and sources hint they claimed Dionysus as their patron. Between 135 and 101 B.C., two slave revolts in Sicily and one slave revolt in western Anatolia all invoked Dionysus. The god appeared again in the rebellion of Rome’s Italian allies known as the Social War (91 – 88 B.C.): rebel coins showed Bacchus as a symbol of liberation. (Barry Strauss, The Spartacus War pgs 34-35)

It held equal appeal for the wealthy and powerful:

Antony himself, when he was staying at Athens, a short time after this, prepared a very superb scaffold to spread over the theatre, covered with green wood such as is seen in the caves sacred to Bacchus; and from this scaffold he suspended drums and fawn-skins, and all the other toys which one names in connection with Bacchus, and then sat there with his friends, getting drunk from daybreak, a band of musicians, whom he had sent for from Italy, playing to him all the time, and all the Greeks around being collected to see the sight. And presently, he crossed over to the Acropolis, the whole city of Athens being illuminated with lamps suspended from the roof; and after that lie ordered himself to be proclaimed as Bacchus throughout all the cities in that district. (History of the Civil War Book 3 quoted in Athenaios 4.29)

Indeed, one of the most interesting things about reading epigraphic testimonies of the god’s cults is how frequently we find the different classes mingling in his worship, as you can see for yourself in Philip Harland’s exhaustive, though by no means complete, collection of them.

This was such a strong component of Dionysiac worship that it completely scandalized Philo the Jew:

In the city there are thiasoi with a large membership, whose fellowship is founded on no sound principle but on strong liquor, drunkenness, intoxicated violence, and their offspring, wantonness. (In Flaccum 136)

Which is what ultimately led to the suppression of the Bacchanalia in Rome. Had this just been a cult of slaves, women and foreigners the senate wouldn’t have freaked out as they did:

Then Hispala gave an account of the origin of these rites. At first they were confined to women; no male was admitted, and they had three stated days in the year on which persons were initiated during the daytime, and matrons were chosen to act as priestesses. Paculla Annia, a Campanian, when she was priestess, made a complete change, as though by divine monition, for she was the first to admit men, and she initiated her own sons, Minius Cerinnius and Herennius Cerinnius. At the same time she made the rite a nocturnal one, and instead of three days in the year celebrated it five times a month. When once the mysteries had assumed this promiscuous character, and men were mingled with women with all the licence of nocturnal orgies, there was no crime, no deed of shame, wanting. More uncleanness was wrought by men with men than with women. […] They formed an immense multitude, almost equal to the population of Rome; amongst them were members of noble families both men and women. (Livy, History of Rome 39.13-16)

Once upperclass folk started getting involved that’s when the hammer fell, with disastrous consequences:

But so great were the numbers that fled from the city, that because the lawsuits and property of many persons were going to ruin, the praetors, Titus Maenius and Marcus Licinius, were obliged, under the direction of the senate, to adjourn their courts for thirty days, until the inquiries should be finished by the consuls. The same deserted state of the law-courts, since the persons, against whom charges were brought, did not appear to answer, nor could be found in Rome, necessitated the consuls to make a circuit of the country towns, and there to make their inquisitions and hold the trials. […] A greater number were executed than thrown into prison; indeed, the multitude of men and women who suffered in both ways, was very considerable. A charge was then given to demolish all the places where the Bacchanalians had held their meetings; first in Rome, and then throughout all Italy. (Livy, History of Rome 34.18)

Which is why I am so concerned about the growing politicization of the polytheist movement, as I recently discussed here and here. By insisting that paganism is not religious but revolutionary, dictating what positions a person must take on contemporary socioeconomic issues and furthermore insisting that they have the backing of the gods in what they are doing I cannot in good conscience stand with them. It’s not right when the Christian dominionists push for the blurring of the separation of the sacred and secular, and it’s not right when “we” do it either.

For one, it diminishes our intellectual and moral capacities to believe that a god must tell us right from wrong. I can get upset all on my own when I see police systematically murdering people of color or corporations blowing up mountains and dumping toxic sludge into our waterways for profit. And for another, outside of those and a handful of other serious issues, a lot of this stuff doesn’t have a simple answer. Decent, sincere, caring people can come to diametrically opposed conclusions on these matters and I’m not going to shun someone because they happen to think differently than I do. In point of fact I am not permitted to exclude another Dionysian from fellowship unless their actions violate the xenia of the god, for instance by bashing a trans person or taking advantage of someone who is too inebriated to give proper consent. Tolerance is one of the cardinal virtues of Dionysos and sometimes that means putting up with people I don’t particularly like.

And yet repeatedly these “radical polytheists” have made it abundantly clear that there is no room for people who think like I do in their little clique. Back when we were considering putting on a second polytheist leadership conference a popular and influential name in the community threatened to boycott when they caught wind of my political leanings. (Even though I very carefully kept that out of the equation and a sizable contingent of our speakers at the first conference were left of Marx.) Since then the situation has only gotten worse. Over and over again I’ve seen these people viciously turn on each other over miniscule differences in ideology. Friendship counts for nothing with these people, nor does a prior history in social justice activism. If you don’t toe the line and express all the right talking points all the time, even when those talking points shift without warning, you’re done for.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I mean, fuck. We’re a small enough group of people as it is without unnecessarily dividing ourselves further. You can say something is great and important enough that you’re dedicating your life to it without demanding everyone else get behind it as well and they’re wrong, wrong, WRONG if they don’t. Let’s come together to honor the gods and spirits, and when we do let’s put all of that human stuff aside for the hour or so that we’re worshiping. Because you know, there are more important things than us in this world.

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Keep politics out of religion

As inappropriate as you find it when Christians use their faith to curtail reproductive rights, block marriage equality or pass harmful legislation targeting trans youth, I find the effort to politicize polytheism – and especially to make anti-capitalism a litmus test for polytheist identity – just as repugnant.

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A pointed question

If praying while you protest somehow makes it a religious act does my calling out the gods’ names while I masturbate accomplish the same?

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the celebration of the nocturnal dramatic festival

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For those in the Starry Bull tradition Maiuma is approaching.

One of the ways that this festival was celebrated in antiquity was with shows:

Likewise Commodus set aside a specific quantity of gold for torches, lights, and other expenses for the celebration of the nocturnal dramatic festival, held every three years and known as Orgies or the Mysteries of Dionysos and Aphrodite, which some call Maioumas because it is celebrated in the month of May-Artemisios. (Malalas, Chronicle 284-5)

Interestingly, I just came across reference to Aphroditean technitai from Sicily which were paired with the more familiar guilds of Dionysian artists. Which is particularly interesting in light of the stage trappings found in the Cave of the Nymphs, where mysteries of Aphrodite-Persephone were conducted:

Pan is not the only god whose presence was felt by the women at the Grotta Caruso. On the side of the terracotta plaque with the nymphs and Pan are depicted thyrsoi, implements belonging to the maenadic cult of Dionysus. Models of maenads were also found in the Grotta, together with Sileni, masks and figurines of comic actors, and the theatrical as well as the ecstatic dimension of Dionysus clearly figured in the experience at the Cave. For women to leave behind theatrical votives suggests strongly that their activities were connected with performances that took place in the theater built in the center of the city.

The chthonic aspects of Dionysus were intertwined with the ecstatic and theatrical in Magna Graecia, making it not surprising that this Locrian ritual combined theatrical elements with a katabasis. In Sicilian Lipari, a terracotta portrait of Menander was found in a tomb. On Campanian craters of the fourth century, theatrical and nuptial iconography was combined with iconography drawn from the thiasos of Dionysus, and these were used as funeral urns. The otherworldly potency of Dionysus is of course at the center of the god’s occurrence in funerary contexts. The god’s association with mystery Orphic cults in the Locrian region was made dramatically apparent with the discovery in 1969, in a woman’s grave at Hipponion (a colony of Locri), of an Orphic gold leaf tablet. It dates from about 400, and it reminds the deceased that, of the two paths available in the underworld, one is reserved for mystai and bakkhoi. Could the rituals at the Grotta Caruso have belonged to a mystery cult, and the women emerged from the water as mystai? (Bonnie MacLachlan, Women and Nymphs at the Grotta Caruso)

So, in honor of the impending festivities, I would like to share a selection of films which give modern expression to the myths of the Starry Bull tradition.

Spider Labyrinth

The Forbidden Girl

Manôushe: A Gypsy Love Story

The Lickerish Quartet

V for Vendetta

The Last Circus

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Cell

Inception

Hellraiser II: Hellbound

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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Unveiling gesture

louvre-buste-femme -ariane

Female bust (Ariadne) from the Louvre:

This life-size statue of a woman, veiled and wearing a crown of vine branches and leaves (an attribute of Dionysos), probably represents Ariadne. She held the border of her cloak with her right hand, suggesting the unveiling gesture (known in Greek as ‘anakalypsis‘) that is characteristic of divine marriage scenes. The figure of the woman was probably part of a cult group along with her husband, the god Dionysos – iconography found on many red-figure vases made in the Falerii region. In the fourth and third centuries BC, the cult of Dionysos was extremely popular in Greece, but also in Campania and Etruria, particularly Falerii. According to certain Latin texts, the city was supposed to have contributed to the spread of Dionysiac rites to Rome and was partially responsible for the Senate decree of 186 BC, suppressing Bacchanalia and the worship of Dionysos.

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Ariadne will shank a bitch if she don’t get her honey

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KN Gg702 (Documents, no. 205)
pa-si-te-o-I me-ri AMPHORA
da-pu2-ri-to-jo po-ti-ni-ja me-ri AMPHORA
pansi theoii meli amphiphoreus
daburinthoio potniai meli amphiphoreus
To all the gods, one jar of honey.
To the Mistress of the Labyrinth, one jar of honey.

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dissimilar

True Detective -yellow king

An excerpt from the Dissimilar Doubles which appears in the Heart of the Labyrinth.

Her life had grown too small, too familiar, too confining. She ached to experience something new, something different. And as if in answer to her prayers along came Theseus, a pretty stranger from a distant land full of dark and dangerous promises, and the second she set eyes on him she knew he was her way out of there.

So she helped him murder her brother and torch her father’s kingdom and all she asked in return was that he take her with him when he left. She loved what he represented, how thoroughly he had destroyed her life — but Ariadne never loved the man himself. That much became apparent on the ship back to Athens when all he’d talk of was love and home and starting a family with her as his cherished wife, the fine mother of his fine sons, his pampered queen who would want for nothing. Nothing except the freedom and adventure she so desperately craved. Slowly she came to realize that she had made a horrible mistake, swapping one prison for another. Only this prison was far more restrictive than the labyrinth had ever been. There, at least, she had been free to be a monster with her misshapen brother, but Theseus saw only the woman in her.

And so she went to sleep to destroy her life once again, went to sleep so that he would leave her behind and choose a wife more suited to him such as her brainless sister Phaidra. Theseus never looked back; he knew what he was abandoning on Dia and was glad to be rid of her — a woman whose restless soul meant that she would never be truly happy, one who would gladly choose death over comfort and boredom.

It wasn’t Haides that came to rapture her. Though there is a certain resemblance between them, her demon lover was younger, crazier and filled with a lust for life and adventure equal to Ariadne’s own. Dionysos offered to make her dreams a reality. Together they would hunt and revel and exhaust themselves in the pursuit of ephemeral desire. He promised she would never be bored, never be satisfied, never be comfortable. He would destroy her over and over again and abandon her only if she stopped being a monster. He has never abandoned her.

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show your support

In addition to the DIO shirts and jackets, we now offer items with this slick Starry Bull image designed by the talented Markos.

starry_bull_logo_zip_hoodie

Five dollars from the sale of each item will go to help put on the bebakcheumenia at MGW. (The rest goes to Cafepress.)

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Things may be quiet around here for a while

Since I’ve only had one person contact me about the class on Bacchic Orphic offerings (and they’re already comped since they’re in the Toys class) I’m going to take that as a sign that this isn’t the right time to be teaching the material.

Instead I’ll be looking into some alternative ways of raising funds for the bebakcheumenia team – real traditional ways:

The troubles started with the arrival in Etruria of a low-born Greek possessed of none of those numerous accomplishments which the Greek people, the most highly educated and civilized of nations, has introduced among us for the cultivation of mind and body; he dealt in sacrifices and soothsaying. But his method of infecting people’s minds with error was not by the open practice of his rites and the public advertisement of his trade and his system; he was the hierophant of secret ceremonies performed at night. There were initiations which at first were only imparted to a few; but they soon began to be widespread among men and women. The pleasures of drinking and feasting were added to the religious rites, to attract a larger number of followers. When wine had inflamed their feelings, and night and the mingling of sexes and of different ages had extinguished all power of moral judgment, all sorts of corruption began to be practiced, since each person had ready to hand the chance of gratifying the particular desire to which he was naturally inclined. The corruption was not confined to one kind of evil, the promiscuous violation of free men and women; the cult was also a source of supply of false witnesses, forged documents and wills, and perjured evidence, dealing also in poisons and murders of families where the bodies could not even be found for burial. Many crimes were committed by treachery; most by violence, which was kept secret, because the cries of those who were being violated or murdered could not be heard owing to the noise of drums and cymbals. (Livy, History of Rome 39.8-12 )

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Do it for Dionysos.

snakethyrsos_men39s_tshirt

Our special commemorative t-shirts to help raise funds for the bebakcheumenia at Many Gods West are now available in a variety of sizes and styles. The image is quite special and was designed by master artisan Markos Gage, who’s one clever bastard. It includes the Greek letters delta, iota and omicron; an abbreviation for DIOnysos. Badass, huh?

If t-shirts aren’t your thing but you’d still like to help out, there are several other options, such as:

* A blessing / candle-lighting for $40
* Divination (up to 3 questions) for $35
* An essay on the subject of your choosing for $30
* A poem or prayer on the subject of your choosing for $25
* And for $100 you’ll get all of the above

As well as a class I’m teaching on Bacchic Orphic offerings and for a $50 or $100 donation you or your group can be honored in our promotional literature.

In addition to supplies and other expenditures we’re going to need to spring for two hotel rooms and a plane ticket so we can use all the help we can get. Do it for community. Do it for Dionysos.

snakethyrsos_women39s_scoop_neck_tshirt

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