I’ve got a nasty bout of insomnia. I’ve tried just laying there and reading and alcohol and eating and masturbation and pretty much everything else you’re supposed to do and sleep just won’t come. This often happens after oracular sessions and the only solution is to simply wait it out. I’d go write in the park but it’s cold and rainy and I’m not really in a productive head-space at the moment (also because of the oracles), so instead I’ll blather on for a bit here at the blog.
I guess I’ll continue the theme of the last couple posts. It amuses me that so much of my stuff is quasi-Catholic these days and I so often find myself speaking up in defense of Christianity. This is true for a couple of reasons — I have been an extremely vocal critic of Christianity in the past and don’t really care for most Christians today being pretty close to the top of the list. But also there’s the fact that my stuff isn’t even remotely Catholic. Ah, paradox. It always ends up in a paradox, doesn’t it?
You see, culturally and aesthetically I have a strong affinity for Catholicism — mostly in its Italian form, but the other stuff ain’t too shabby. However this is strictly window dressing. My actual practice? Pretty much by the book Greek recon. Granted, there’s probably a lot more dancing and drinking and being in an altered state of consciousness than you’ll find advocated on the Hellenic lists and fora (assuming such still exist) but read your Euripides, Pausanias and Plato — that’s all very much part of the tradition. My worship routine (not counting dérives and oreibasia) consists of pretty standard votive offerings, libations, burning incense, the recitation of hymns and other poetry, shared meals with my gods and that sort of thing. I always wear a garland-crown for festivals and the core of my festival calendar is Attic. Not because I have a special fondness for Athens (I actually find it to be the least interesting of the Greek poleis, especially compared to Southern Italy and Ptolemaic Egypt which inform my practice on a much deeper level) but because the Dionysian festivals I’ve taken from it (Lampteria, Lenaia, Anthesteria, etc.) profoundly speak to me and at this point I’ve been observing them for rather a long time. (I’ve done Anthesteria in one form or another pretty much since I started actively worshiping Dionysos, which is now more than two decades ago. Granted, some of those early Anthesterias were fairly half-assed and bore only a superficial resemblance either to what was done in antiquity or what I do now, but still. Keeping a festival for 20+ years isn’t something to sneeze at, especially when you consider how much other things in my life have changed.) And the stuff that isn’t Greek is either derived from Roman, later Italian or Pan-European folk customs.
The closest I come to doing anything overtly “Christian” is in June when I observe the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, which has all sorts of interesting midsummer traditions associated with it, and then about a week later there’s the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul which is pretty much the high holy days of Tarantism and for me is all about Spider. I might blog about it if I notice that a feast day of a saint I find interesting is coming up and if I’m feeling so inclined (and it’s thematically appropriate) I may even do a bit of spontaneous ritual on the occasion for my gods and spirits, but that’s about it. I don’t honor any of the saints in an overtly religious fashion, nor have I worshiped Jesus and his family since adolescence (not counting a Good Friday procession in the Bronx I once weirdly found myself a part of while trying to get some fried chicken from a place run by Pakistanis. The experience was very surreal, let me tell you.)
And yet I wouldn’t be surprised if most people think of me as some kind of Christopagan syncretist. That’s certainly how I come across on this blog. A lot of the imagery I share and the poetry I write explores (admittedly heterodox) Christian themes. At this point I think it’s safe to say that it’s more than a passing flirtation or a casual interest. Every so often I’ll find myself in a Sufi or Aghori mood — but this goes way beyond that.
I honestly don’t know.
Partly, as I said, it’s cultural and aesthetic. The symbolism resonates with me and a lot of it is strangely parallel to my core stuff, especially the stuff having to do with Dionysos, Spider, Ariadne, and figures like Orpheus, Melampos, Akoites, Pentheus, Marcus Antonius, etc. I mean, really, a lot of Christian devotional writing and music could be about Dionysos if you didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be. And artistically I like playing around with that. There’s a polarity there, a tension created by their simultaneous similarity and disunity. Plus, no matter how Pagan you think you are we’ve all been raised in a Christian culture and that lurks somewhere way back in our brains and we can’t help but respond to it on some level. Instead of denying that, running from it and creating an artificial oasis I’m engaging it, messing with it, turning it on its head and making it say something else entirely, using that language, that symbolism to praise my Pagan deities. Transgression, subversion, masquerade and tweaking expectations — these are the tricks of the trade for Dionysian artists, and I feel that employing these tools makes my writing even more powerful than it was previously, adds all these extra layers and nuance to it.
But this … whatever it is, it isn’t just artistic. I’m genuinely drawn to this stuff and these figures, especially John the Baptist and Saint Paul. Their stories and all the things associated with them speak to me for some reason, beyond what I sometimes use them for in my art. Because I’ve spent so much time studying and reflecting on them I’ve developed a certain fondness for them. I’ve never had a direct encounter with them and I doubt that I ever will. But I don’t think it’s entirely one-sided either. They keep coming through my poetry even when I’m not intending for them to or particularly want them there. I do several kinds of writing. Some of it is very intellectual. I map it out, I carefully go over what I want to say and how I want to say it (sometimes agonizing over every single word choice) and then on the other end of the spectrum I get into a very receptive state, an almost oracular trance that I think of as creative frenzy, and it all just comes rushing through me. I have no control, the words and thoughts form on their own, and I’m little more than a scribe jotting down what’s communicated to me or through me. Many times when I come out of that state and read what’s on the paper — it’s all about them. Why? Is it something in my subconscious? Are they communicating to me indirectly? Are one of the others — Hermes or Spider or Dionysos, say — using them as a prosopon? Who the fuck knows? Certainly not I!
And, honestly, I prefer not to think too much about it and I don’t really have much interest in taking the relationship further. I like where things stand, completely unresolved. I like that it’s weird and boundary-blurring and doesn’t make any sense for a person like me to have all this Christian stuff around.
Plus some of this shit is really gross and morbid and disturbing even to me. The stuff in our brains poked by horror movies — that’s where real Christianity comes from. And I’ve loved horror movies ever since I was a kid.