hashtag dandelion squirrel

I try to treat everyone and everything I encounter excellently, but if I must choose between competing obligations priority will be shown as follows:

  • There is Dionysos.
  • There are the Gods, Spirits and Dead who gather round Dionysos.
  • There are all other Gods, Spirits and the Dead.
  • There is the Labyrinth, and all the worlds it leads to.
  • There is this world, and everything it contains. Especially plants. And viruses.
  • There are spiders, and all the other animals, birds, insects, fish, etc.
  • There are my colleagues, those I have initiated, members of the Starry Bull tradition, those I worship with, and members of the Bacchic Underground.
  • Then there’s the rest of humanity. I care nothing about groups, only individuals. The more we have in common, the more one matters to me. Most, however, are invisible and irrelevant.

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Yes, that means you matter less than this squirrel holding a dandelion.

Which is why you should not determine your self-worth by my opinion of you.

The Library is a Labyrinth

Necromancy

Galina reposted a piece she wrote on how a woeful misinterpretation of source material leads to erroneous notions such as Freyja, Queen of the Valkyries and why this matters.

To do polytheism right requires well-honed critical faculties and an appreciation for differentiation. Reading isn’t enough; you need to know how to properly evaluate what you’re reading or you’ll wind up meandering through mad and fruitless passages.

This is a significant problem within mainstream contemporary Hellenic polytheism and I think it stems primarily from an inability to distinguish between types of religious literature as a result of the priority given to the Christian scriptures in our society. That is to say, Christians have one Bible and how they treat this book has influenced our understanding of what it means for something to be a piece of religious writing, whereas the ancient view was far more nuanced and complex. Plus, they’re a people of the Book; we’re the people of the Library!

Take Orpheus, Homer and Diodoros Sikeliotes as an example. (Note that I am simplifying things greatly by positing a single “Homer” and “Orpheus” as authors of the works attributed to them, but I don’t want to get too side-tracked in this discussion.) All of these men wrote about Gods, mythological events and cultus and as such their work could be classed as “religious” but there’s a wide gulf between the type of writing they did and their intent in doing so. Consequently we should evaluate them differently and give their words varying degrees of authority.

Diodoros, for instance, was writing primarily as an historian – his discussion of Gods and their rites comes in a work intended to chronicle the totality of human culture and accomplishment from its start up to his own times. There’s a great deal of mythological material and accounts of variant local traditions, but it’s because this serves his narrative needs or he’s relaying the beliefs and words of others, not because he’s laying out his own understanding of things. Indeed he frequently expresses skepticism and doubt about what he’s discussing or offers his own rationalistic (often euhemerizing) interpretation as a counterpoint.

This is very different from Homer who is consciously working within an established, albeit localized and divergent, mythological tradition which he is using to provide a contextual background for the stories he wants to tell about the heroes of Troy. His intent is to praise these men (and flatter his audience by emphasizing their own connection to great events and figures from the past) and add to the tradition he has inherited from his oral predecessors. Homer’s words become invested with authority over time, recited at festivals and scrupulously studied, so that they come to shape a Pan-Hellenic consciousness of myth, tradition and the Gods and heroes. There wasn’t universal agreement with him, but all discussion was carried out with reference to his epic poems.

Different again are the works of Orpheus – they represent a unique revelation and a specific tradition with Orpheus as its head and final arbiter. They are not concerned with the products of human culture and the Gods as important peripherals to that – their intent is to bring about an understanding of these powerful personages and set forth the science of ritual engagement with them.

As such, we need to evaluate each of these forms of religious literature differently, regardless of whether we accept the claims made within them and in particular we must avoid assigning greater authority to them than was intended by the writer – or at least be conscious that we are doing so.

For instance, I find a lot of valuable information in the works of early Christian apologists such as Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytos of Rome and Origen – but these are very problematic sources, since they are often intentionally distorting what they discuss for aggressive rhetorical purposes, all the way down to outright fabrication. This hostility, in addition to the biases all authors possess, need to be factored into any conclusions one makes about ancient polytheist religion based on them.

Think about this the next time someone flings a quote at you – especially when it’s so easy to fabricate false ones. Truth will set you free.

Let’s make a dithyramb!

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I’ll kick it off (I do it thunderstruck with wine) and then you guys add your own stream-of-consciousness verse. Don’t overthink it, just let the words flow and follow upon what the last person stitched in. I’ll decide when it’s done.

Ready? Set? Go!

when you sleep
your soul becomes a dove
that flies to distant lands
that border the kingdom of Dream
and the bed of the Midnight Sun;
your soul flies with the winged Sirens
and the stars that breathe fire
flies …

Friends don’t let friends become Marxist werewolves

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Mixing religion with politics invariably leads to lycanthropy. That’s the take-away from Cinzia Arruzza’s Philosophical Dogs and Tyrannical Wolves in Plato’s Republic, which I’ve been reading over the last couple days along with Edward-Coke’s Cannibalism Under Communism, which gives her argument added poignancy. Part of why it’s taking me so long to devour this material is that it is sparking a lot of thinky thoughts about Achilles, Lykourgos, the Bull-Wolf ritual combat theme, the Benandanti, the wolfsangel and all manner of fun things like that.

Bene omnibus nobis

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The hilasmós and symposion went wonderfully, as you can read in the account Galina provided here. We had a full house and everyone enthusiastically threw themselves into honoring Athene and the Dead. (We included several options for making the votive dolls, ranging in difficulty and complexity, and folks went with the most challenging even though some of them had no prior experience working with yarn, and that kind of fearless devotion is pretty fucking cool to see.) Probably the most interesting thing about the rite for me personally is that Athene came through in several distinct forms and I have a stronger sense of the role she plays within the Starry Bull tradition as a result. It also really drove home the importance of getting together with folks off the interwebs and doing stuff face to face. I truly treasure the camaraderie and inspired conversations we shared; this is the stuff from which community is woven. Thank you to everyone who showed up, to everyone who contributed and supported this rite from afar (such as Rebecca, whose Litany was recited as part of the observance) and especially to Athene Who Remembers and the Many Dead. Long may you be feasted!

The Other Red Meat

“Some went insane. They never did become completely still. One could tell from their eyes–because their eyes shone. These were the people who cut up and cooked corpses, who killed their own children and ate them. In them the beast rose to the top as the human being died. I saw one. She had been brought to the district center under convoy. Her face was human, but her eyes were those of a wolf. These are cannibals.” (Vasily Grossman, as quoted in Cannibalism Under Communism)

Gee, where have I heard that story before?