Want your very own divination system?



I need to pick up some books that come with fairly hefty price-tags and so was thinking of ways to raise some extra cash when it occurred to me – I have a pretty novel skill.

At first I just kind of assumed that this was something anyone at my level of practice and experience could do, but over the years I’ve discovered that plenty of folks who surpass me in these areas lack the ability to receive or create new divination systems.

At this point I’ve come up with close to forty of them, for myself as well friends and colleagues. Partly I think it’s an understanding of the science involved in such systems, partly its an innate receptivity to the language of the divine and partly it’s the gods and spirits I work with, especially Dionysos, Hermes and Spider. Whatever the case they work and people get astounding results with my systems.

So I’m going to start offering this service to the community.

For $75 you can have a specially crafted divination system for the god, spirit or group of divinities of your choosing. $25 of that will be non-refundable and paid up front so that I can procure appropriate offerings, etc. to begin the work, with the remaining $50 paid upon successful completion and delivery of the system. (I am putting this precaution in place because I cannot guarantee that your divinities will be inclined to communicate the necessary information to me.)

If you would like me to physically make the system for you that will require an additional amount to cover supplies and labor though I strongly advise against this as 1) making it yourself forges a personal connection with the system and 2) my artistic skills ain’t so great.

If you’re interested contact me at sannion@gmail.com and we can begin discussing specifics.

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At the heart of it all … a bull in a cave

i. ‘I saw a white bird with outstretched wings. It alighted on the figure of a woman, clad in blue, who sat there like an antique statue. The bird perched on her hand, and in it she held a grain of wheat. The bird took it in its beak and flew into the sky again.’

For this X painted a picture: a blue-clad, archaically simple ‘Mother’-figure on a white marble base, Her maternity is emphasized by the large breasts.

ii. ‘A bull lifts a child up from the ground and carries it to the antique statue of a woman. A naked young girl with a wreath of flowers in her hair appears, riding on a white bull, She takes the child and throws it into the air like a ball and catches it again. The white bull carries them both to a temple,. The girl lays the child on the ground, and so on (initiation follows).’

iii, ‘I saw a golden pig on a pedestal. Beast-like beings danced round it in a circle. We made haste to dig a hole in the ground. I reached in and found water. Then a man appeared in a golden carriage, He jumped into the hole and began swaying back and forth, as if dancing…. I swayed in rhythm with him. Then he suddenly leaped out of the hole, raped me, and got me with child.’

iv. ‘I saw a beautiful youth with golden cymbals, dancing and leaping in joy and abandonment…. Finally he fell to the ground and buried his face in the flowers. Then he sank into the lap of a very old mother. After a time he got up and jumped into the water, where he sported like a dolphin…. I saw that his hair was golden. Now we were leaping together, hand in hand, So we came to a gorge … In leaping the gorge the youth falls into the chasm. X is left alone and comes to a river where a white sea-horse is waiting for her
with a golden boat.’

… X found the youth in the lap of the mother so impressive that she painted a picture of it, The figure is the same as in item i; only, instead of the grain of wheat in her hand, there is the body of the youth lying completely exhausted in the lap of the gigantic mother.

v. ‘There now follows a sacrifice of sheep, during which a game of ball is likewise played with the sacrificial animal. The participants smear themselves with the sacrificial blood, and afterwards bathe in the pulsing gore. X is thereupon transformed into a plant.

vi. ‘After that X comes to a den of snakes, and the snakes wind all round her.

vii, ‘In a den of snakes beneath the sea there is a divine woman, asleep.’ (She is shown in the picture as much larger than the others.) ‘She is wearing a blood-red garment that covers only the lower half of her body. She has a dark skin, full red lips, and seems to be of great physical strength. She kisses X, who is obviously in the role of the young girl, and hands her as a present to the many men who are standing by, etc.

viii. ‘As X emerged from the depths and saw the light again, she experienced a kind of illumination: white flames played about her head as she walked through waving fields of grain.’”

(Carl Gustav Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious p. 188-189)

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Dionysos can take your suffering away.
He can do anything.
But most of the time he won’t, and that’s why everyone hates him.
How could anyone hate Dionysos? He’s so awesome.
Get to know him and you’ll hate him. If he really lets you in, you’ll hate him.
It’s that suffering thing, you see.
What he does is teach us how to nurture our suffering, transform it, raise it to an artform.
And that’s much better than just taking our suffering away.
Because suffering is a goad, a frenzied biter who drives us on to excellence.
Would you rather be happy or excellent?
Then you must learn to work with your suffering, know it as intimately as the artist knows his chisel and hammer, her paints and brushes, eir voice which e spills out on the streets each night for pennies and applause.
To be human is to suffer. Embrace it.
That is the gospel of the threshing floor.
Are you strong enough to put on the mask of goatskin?
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G. Krasskova

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Hope to see you there!

And if you’d like to explore miasma from a Bacchic Orphic perspective, join us this Thursday at 9:30PM EDT at Zoho where we’ll be tackling this as well as some of our upcoming festivals (such as the Feast of the Dionysians Kings and Karneia.) Hope to see you there!

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Let’s change the tone of discourse in our communities – together!

As ridiculous as the latest identity politics tempest in a teapot is (and it is) it got me thinking: why are our communities so prone to these flamewars?

We’re all sick of it, right?

I bet everyone has written a post swearing them off and saying enough is enough.

Yet they keep happening.

So clearly we get something out of it.

Sure, there’s obviously the folks who are addicted to the controversy and adrenaline rush, the folks who are exploiting it to make a name for themselves or sell books and crafts and spiritual services. And there’s the herd instinct – if everyone else is doing it, we don’t want to be left out.

But if you factor all of that out of the equation there’s still a ton of folks who get dragged into this shit, seemingly against their will.


Controversy drives discussion.

There are issues in our communities that need addressing and topics that simply aren’t being talked about otherwise.

When a controversy breaks out it grabs people’s attention and forces this stuff to the forefront.

Conversations start in one place and carry over into a bunch of other blogs, which helps foster a sense of community and solidarity.

And that can be very positive for us.

Some really important stuff has come out of this, as long as we manage to avoid the nastiness and name-calling.

So what if we had those conversations outside of an inherently antagonistic environment?

What if we picked a topic and collectively wrote about it from the perspectives of our diverse polytheist traditions and individual practices?

We could still cultivate that momentum and zeitgeist but do it in a respectful, level-headed and mature fashion.

Let’s try an experiment and see how it goes.

Pollution and purification are concepts that carry a lot of baggage in our modern culture, which is why I think we tend to avoid a serious analysis of them. And yet they are vitally important within many (though not all) of our polytheist traditions. So let’s discuss them!

* Does your tradition recognize pollution and how is it handled?
* Is pollution only relevant in certain circumstances (i.e. when entering sacred space and dealing with certain gods) or is it something that needs to be dealt with across the board, including in our regular, daily lives?
* What ritual technology does your tradition have for dealing with this and what do you think someone just starting out should do and know about this?
* Is pollution physical or strictly spiritual? Is this even a useful dichotomy to entertain?
* What are some of the consequences of paying too little or too much attention to it?

To get the ball rolling I’ll share a couple posts I’ve made on miasma:

Dionysian purity
For those interested in Hellenic ritual purity
They make themselves pure by washing with another’s blood as if you could clean off mud by stepping into mud

And I plan to write some fresh content on this as well over the coming weeks.

But honestly I’m more interested in seeing what you have to say on these and future topics! Let’s change the tone of discourse in our communities – together!

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There’s more to the story

I just read this article about using the Homeric Hymn to Demeter to reconstruct the mystery-rite of Eleusis.

I think one could come up with a very lovely and powerful ritual that way but it wouldn’t really be a mystery let alone the mystery of Eleusis.

Couple problems, you see. Mysteries come from the gods and are passed down through human lineage and they have a strong tie to place. (At least if we’re talking about institutional mysteries like Eleusis, Andania and Samothrake – Orphic mysteries were cobbled together by itinerant religious specialists to address the needs of their clients, hence their abundant variation and ill repute in certain circles.) Even more importantly the Homeric Hymn to Demeter is a text about mysteries not a mystery text.

You see, the Homeridai or Homeric rhapsodes were a group of performers who traveled the circuit of Pan-Hellenic festivals reciting (from memory no less!) select passages from the epics of Homer or short religious compositions in dactylic hexameters with the same sorts of formulaic expressions. These were immensely popular and helped foster a sense of solidarity among the disparate communities they visited. The corpus of hymns that have come down to us under the name of Homer are thus different even than the Orphic Hymns (which were written for a private cult group in first or second century Asia Minor) let alone an actual hieros logos – something the HHtD itself makes explicitly clear:

awful mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or pry into or utter, for deep awe of the gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.

In other words, everything in the hymn we have just heard (or in our cases read) contributes to the mythic atmosphere of the mysteries but their actual content remains a carefully preserved secret. So if you want to conjecture about the Eleusinian mysteries the last place you want to start is the HHtD, as that only contains knowledge that was common to all – by definition that which is not mysterious.

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What if they threw a flame war and no one showed up?

So, apparently, while we were all off at the Conference a super important big controversy was raging through what remained of the blogosphere.

In summary: devotional polytheism is, like, so 2012 and stuff. We’re all going to start calling ourselves immersive polytheists and making Youtubes about it.

Here’s mine:

Or maybe instead we could all send good thoughts and mojo to Ruadhán, who’s scrambling to find a place to live.

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The Joy in Life

I want this guy to tell stories about Dionysos at all of my festivals:

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In mingled cries the dithyramb should ring

Plutarch, On the E at Delphi 9
As for his passage and distribution into waves and water, and earth, and stars, and nascent plants and animals, they hint at the actual change undergone as a rending and dismemberment, but name the god himself Dionysos or Zagreus or Nyktelios or Isodaites. Deaths too and vanishings do they construct, passages out of life and new births, all riddles and tales to match the changes mentioned. So they sing to Dionysos dithyrambic strains, charged with sufferings and a change wherein are wanderings and dismemberment. For Aischylos says:

In mingled cries the dithyramb should ring,
With Dionysos revelling, its King.

In constrast Apollon has the Paean, a set and sober music. Apollon is ever ageless and young; Dionysos has many forms and many shapes as represented in paintings and sculpture, which attribute to Apollon smoothness and order and a gravity with no admixture, but to Dionysos a blend of sport and sauciness with seriousness and frenzy:

God that sett’st maiden’s blood
Dancing in frenzied mood,
Blooming with pageantry!
Evoe! we cry

So do they summon him, rightly catching his changeable character.

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The Deeper you go, the Harder it gets

Wise words from Dver:

I have been shifting the way I approach ritual, magic and devotion at a fundamental level, and while I know it’s “for the best” (in the sense that it will bring me in line with what my spirits want, and bring me more personal mojo and other good things), it has been ridiculously difficult to actually implement. It’s very frustrating to have reached a place where you finally feel like you know what you’re doing in your practice, and then be told to essentially abandon that practice and do something far trickier. Each time I made a breakthrough, I would then be plunged back into the depths of self-doubt and distance and madness. (ᛞᚷᛉ)

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How do you make the one many and the many one?

In a recent discussion I mentioned bricolage:

Though it’s evolved organically the Starry Bull pantheon is tightly-knit with a lot of intersection among its members. Many of them have a habit of showing up when the others are called, especially within specifically thiasos-style rites. This is part of why there’s such a strong insistence that one get to know the entire pantheon during the early stages – we don’t want folks freaking out when headless saints or giant spiders show up during their devotions. Another part is because all of them are involved in the mysteries of our tradition. In fact how and to what degree they are involved determines which mystery a person goes through, bricolage-style.

Bricolage (and there’s a fairly decent entry on it at Wikipedia) was Radcliffe G. Edmonds III’s solution to the problem of varying types of Orphism:

I propose a re-examination of the ancient evidence that takes seriously the model, proposed by Burkert and others, of itinerant religious specialists competing for religious authority among a varying clientele. Rather than looking for a coherent set of sacred texts canonical to people who considered themselves Orphics, texts expressive of doctrines pertaining to sin, salvation, and afterlife, we should look for the products of bricolage, pieced together from widely available traditional material to meet the demand of clients looking for extra-ordinary solutions to their problems. If the texts and rituals are products of bricolage, however, and their creators bricoleurs competing for authority, we cannot expect to find either consistency of texts or doctrines, merely a loose family resemblance between composites of the same traditional elements. A redefinition of ancient Orphism requires a polythetic definition that accommodates the complexities of the ancient contexts rather than the sort of monothetic definition that identifies Orphism by its scriptures and doctrines. Nevertheless, the attempt to force the evidence into this preconceived modern construct has created unnecessary confusions in interpretation, as, e.g., the debate over the Orphic status of the author of the Derveni papyrus shows. (Redefining Ancient Orphism)


There’s a strong parallel between this and a practice pioneered by William S. Burroughs called the cut-up technique:

Also in the 1950s, painter and writer Brion Gysin more fully developed the cut-up method after accidentally re-discovering it. He had placed layers of newspapers as a mat to protect a tabletop from being scratched while he cut papers with a razor blade. Upon cutting through the newspapers, Gysin noticed that the sliced layers offered interesting juxtapositions of text and image. He began deliberately cutting newspaper articles into sections, which he randomly rearranged. The book Minutes to Go resulted from his initial cut-up experiment: unedited and unchanged cut-ups which emerged as coherent and meaningful prose. Gysin introduced Burroughs to the technique at the Beat Hotel. The pair later applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings in an effort to decode the material’s implicit content, hypothesizing that such a technique could be used to discover the true meaning of a given text. Burroughs also suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”

Interestingly I just came across a reference to this from antiquity, Irenaeus’ Against Heresies 1.9.4:

Then, again, collecting a set of expressions and names scattered here and there in Scripture, they twist them, as we have already said, from a natural to a non-natural sense. In so doing, they act like those who bring forward any kind of hypothesis they fancy, and then endeavour to support them out of the poems of Homer, so that the ignorant imagine that Homer actually composed the verses bearing upon that hypothesis, which has, in fact, been but newly constructed; and many others are led so far by the regularly-formed sequence of the verses, as to doubt whether Homer may not have composed them. Of this kind is the following passage, where one, describing Hercules as having been sent by Eurystheus to the dog in the infernal regions, does so by means of these Homeric verses—for there can be no objection to our citing these by way of illustration, since the same sort of attempt appears in both:—

Thus saying, there sent forth from his house deeply groaning.Od., x. 76.
The hero Hercules conversant with mighty deeds.Od., xxi. 26.
Eurystheus, the son of Sthenelus, descended from Perseus.Il., xix. 123.
That he might bring from Erebus the dog of gloomy Pluto.Il., viii. 368.
And he advanced like a mountain-bred lion confident of strength.Od., vi. 130.
Rapidly through the city, while all his friends followed.Il., xxiv. 327.
Both maidens, and youths, and much-enduring old men.Od., xi. 38.
Mourning for him bitterly as one going forward to death.Il., xxiv. 328.
But Mercury and the blue-eyed Minerva conducted him.Od., xi. 626.
For she knew the mind of her brother, how it laboured with grief.Il., ii. 409.<!––>

Now, what simple-minded man, I ask, would not be led away by such verses as these to think that Homer actually framed them so with reference to the subject indicated? But he who is acquainted with the Homeric writings will recognise the verses indeed, but not the subject to which they are applied, as knowing that some of them were spoken of Ulysses, others of Hercules himself, others still of Priam, and others again of Menelaus and Agamemnon. But if he takes them and restores each of them to its proper position, he at once destroys the narrative in question.

Why must we assume intent to deceive? Who is to say that the bricoleur did not feel himself inspired in the arrangement of these random scraps of text, especially when a new story seemed to emerge almost of its own bidding from the disparate fragments? As Burroughs said, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”

At any rate, these methods have deep resonance for me because of Dionysiac sparagmos:

Dionysos, when he saw his image reflected in the mirror, began to pursue it and so was torn to pieces. But Apollon put Dionysos back together and brought him back to life because he was a purifying god and the true savior. (Olympiodoros, Commentary on Plato’s Phaedo 67c)

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The thiasos has a new festival


PS Bey, a member of the thiasos, had some questions about Karneia. I took the matter to Apollon through divination and ended up getting this oracle back:

On the full moon closest to autumn’s equinox, make harvest-offerings and honeyed libations to the ram-horned Apollon and sing songs in memory of the blind prophets. Perform the rite of appeasement of the grove of Troy – perform it now and every year that follows. Drape the Old Man in strips of wool and clusters of ripe grapes, then set the wolves on him. The wolves are young men; unmarried if possible. If they catch him it will go well for all; if not there will be a harsh winter ahead.

I got a strong impression that it wasn’t just him that Apollon wished to keep the festival – rather he wants it officially incorporated into the observances of the thiasos. You’ll note that there are some strong Italian elements to this not found in accounts of the festival at Sparta or Kyrene, just as we seem to have a Magna Graecian Anthesteria that differs from the Attic.

So who’s keeping Karneia this year?

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Reading this passage by Aridela:

As it got darker, I heard a pack of coyotes yipping in the distance. I realize my state is a bit more altered than I thought, when I feel that instead of having a sky suspended above me, that I am myself suspended above the sky. Strapped to the earth for now, I hang, but when the earth lets me go I will fall into the heavens like a pool of water. I see a shooting star just below the corona, and it seems to last forever.

While listening to what I found in her post titled A Song to Walk Through I was reminded of the Orphic gold tablet from Pelinna:

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.

One school of thought is that the milk referred to in these lines is the milky way which the hero is baptized in and arises a fire-breathing star in the choir of Dionysos.

I think it’d be more amusing if you actually had to dunk the baby animals in tubs of milk but either way I imagine it’d be a pretty profound rite.

I bet it’d feel a little something like this:

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Honor Melinoe


Maiden with dark and light eyes,
mistress of many shapes and many wiles
- you were born from grief
and so know how to guide souls
through the winding maze of pain and madness.
You care for those whom others forget,
those who perished before their time or unjustly,
who were too poor or too unloved
to have the proper burial rites performed,
those whose rage and hunger were stronger than dirt
- these you call to you by name,
though all the world soon forgets they once even existed.
Through nightmare landscapes you lead them, ravening and deranged
until some pious soul sets out a feast,
burns candles and prays soothing words
for the restless dead of Melinoë.

Now you should go add something to the communal hymn.

Picture by Jessica Laurel Louise Dalva, taken from here.

Hymn taken from Heart of the Labyrinth.

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Three oracles from Dionysos, as delivered by his prophet Jim Morrison.

The First Oracle
6-3-1: The old get older and the young get stronger
1-6-2: [Inarticulate screaming]
1-5-4: We could plan a murder … or start a religion.
6-4-1: Few would defend a small view
6-1-6: You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!
1-1-5: Awake. Shake dreams from your hair my pretty child, my sweet one.
4-3-2: The music and voices are all around us.
1-1-1: Then daylight brought wisdom
3-4-2: the devil was wiser

The Second Oracle
2-5-2: river flow, on and on it goes
1-6-2: [Inarticulate screaming]
4-3-4: Can you picture what will be?

The Third Oracle
2-5-1: To glory in self like a new monster
2-3-3: may take a week, and it may take longer
2-3-4: Forget the world, forget the people
3-3-3: κατα τον δαιμονα εαυτου
4-5-1: Cinema has evolved in two paths.

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Latest chat log

Here’s the chat log for last night, where you can read a very serious conversation the thiasos had on Magna Graecian weredolphins.

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After the gods, you guys are what make the thiasos so awesome

A couple powerful pieces were posted to the Boukoleon recently that I’d like to draw your attention to. Jack Faust added the second installment in his series on the golden chain of Orpheus:

Very few, if any, of such texts were actually written by the figures they are attributed to. And in point of fact we might well call into question how often treatments of figures such as Hermes Trismegistus or even Orpheus were done so in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, or if they were treated as such as a means of venerating the “spirit” of the wonder-workers, and “magicians” of the past. Given that even Cicero refers to the “image of Orpheus” being with his spirit frequently, we might question whether academic approaches that assume literal views of these figures were routine are correct, or if the assumption has been made from place of ignorance.

And Markos introduced us to some mad artists:

Also he is not so much an outsider artist by today standards… but by putting myself in his time, he is pretty radical. Hunt was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which was established after his frustration of being booted out of art school for not complying with the criteria. The Pre-Raphelites then became one of the first art movements that encompassed visual arts, writing, fashion, architecture and home décor. It radically altered how westerns lived. In Victorian times these guys were like hippies, they rejected Victorian ‘greyness’ and opted for more casual clothing (one of the reasons why we don’t expect women to wear corsets and puffy behind dresses, nowadays.) With Western Celtic idealism they reasserted the Renaissance limited rational and looked towards nature, while rejecting eighteen hundreds enlightenment — Romanticism.

And Emily shared a very powerful prayer and a story I suspect a lot of us can relate to:

This food nourishes me so my actions can nourish the Starry Bull.

This food nourishes me. This food–whatever it is, whether it’s the “right” food or not, whether it’s healthy or an indulgence–is giving me the energy to continue living. This energy enables me to honor the Gods of the Thiasos. With that energy, my actions can nourish the Starry Bull. I get an opportunity to worship Dionysos every time I speak, or act, or write. Why should I surrender those opportunities to fear?

Speaking of prayers, we can still use contributions to the communal pieces for Apollo Soranos and Melinoë. Please consider adding something.

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What does polytheist mean?

Honoring many gods.

Now that that’s been settled folks can move on to more interesting things like this.

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to stand outside the body was to experience death itself.


Continue then your confident boasting, take up a diet of greens and play the showman with your food, make Orpheus your lord and engage in mystic rites, holding the vaporings of many books in honor. For you have been found out. To all I give the warning: avoid men like this. For they make you their prey with their high-holy-sounding words while they contrive deeds of shame. (Euripides, Hippolytos 950–955)

Aristotle says that Orpheus never existed, and it is common opinion that this Orphic poem is by one Cercops, a Pythagorean; but Orpheus, that is, his image as you prefer to say, is frequently present in my spirit. (Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 1.107)

From Dead Kings and Saviour Gods – Euhemerizing Shamanism in Thracian Religion by Dan Attrell:

As the undisputed masters of healing herbs (according to the Greeks), the Thracians were no strangers to the shamanic techniques of ecstasy well known among other cultures of the steppe. Working from the texts of Posidonius, Strabo reported that the Mysians, a Thracian group from north-western Anatolia, possessed members of their society called both θεοσεβεις (“those who fear god”) and καπνοβαται (“those who walk in smoke”) who practiced strict vegetarianism and consumed nothing but honey and dairy products. This reference to the “walkers in smoke” may allude to the ecstasy achieved by mass cannabis consumption as reported by Herodotus among the Scythians. [...] One Orphic bone inscription from Olbia dated to the 5th century BC reads “for Dion(ysos) and Psyche,” revealing the importance of a transcendent soul in connection with the Greek god of intoxication in Thracian territory. Another of these bone inscriptions containing the words “Βιος Θανατος Βιος” and marked with little “Z” pictograms (which might represent little orphic serpents) reveals the widespread and consistent nature of Dionysian symbolism reaching as far north as modern Ukraine. In the shamanic mystery initiations as practiced by the Orphic cults, near-death experiences and the use of dangerous doses of hallucinogenic plants went hand in hand. Whereas the Divine Bridegroom was primarily the god who presided over ecstasy and entheogenic intoxication, the Thracians held him in equally high regard as a dying-and-rising saviour god and a master over the souls of the deceased. Long before the introduction of alcohol, shaman exploited the ecstatic and oracular properties of hallucinogenic mushrooms (Amanita muscaria and various types of coprophilic Psilocybin-containing mushrooms); opium (Papaver somniferum); “jimsonweed,” “horsemad,” or “thornapple” (Datura stramonium); mandrake root (Mandragora officinarum); cannabis; deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna); and henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). The experience of death and the ecstatic evacuation of the soul from the body appears commonly in the Thracian funeral iconography on which is depicted the Tree of Life. To be in a state of ekstasis – that is, to stand outside the body – was to experience death itself.

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