Ἀποφθέγματα Σαννίωνως


As part of the Liberalia Roman boys would participate in a rite of passage during which they removed their bulla (a leather pouch containing charms to ward off evil spirits that afflicted children), clipped off a lock of hair and donned the toga virilis (vestment of manhood) for the first time.

In keeping with that tradition I’d like to share these bromides with my readers – young and old and users of whatever bathrooms they please – and further encourage all of you to reflect on the values, norms, behaviors, world-views, etc you consider necessary for one to be a properly functional polytheist adult.


Everything you do and everything you are is a choice. You are free. Choose wisely.

Make mistakes, as many as you can. How else are you going to learn?

This, too, shall pass.

Show respect to all things. Yes, even if they don’t deserve it. Manners aren’t for other people, they are for us.

Question everything. Especially if it comes from an authority.

Educate yourself, or others will.

You will never have it all figured out.

We all go a little crazy sometimes.

Often what is most feared is most needed.

Listen to The Doors. Jim Morrison was a prophet.

Love unguardedly. Hearts are made to be crushed.

You will die a thousand deaths before your time if you do not master your fear.

Find what you are great at and pursue it with a single-minded devotion.

It doesn’t matter if it’s hard and difficult and unpleasant. Do it anyway.

Live simply in order to enjoy greater leisure and pleasure.

No matter how great you are there are ones who are greater still – the Gods, the Spirits, and the Mighty Dead. There are beings greater than you beyond number. The whole world is alive with their presence. Honor them, from highest to lowest and all in between.

Some Gods and Spirits aren’t nice.

Always do what the Fairies tell you.

If your every act is one of reverence and right relationship with the powers you cannot help but live rightly, justly, wisely and prosperously.

Whenever you’re uncertain, divine.

You have a body. What sustains you is physical. Therefore make material offerings to those who have blessed you.

Give beyond what is expected of you. The excess is the choicest portion of the sacrifice.

Worship with joy. You are in the presence of the divine! Be overcome by awe.

At least once a day just stop everything you’re doing and be completely still, present and mindful.






Never let another make you feel bad for what you do or do not feel.

Be open. Don’t hold back. It’s okay to look mad and foolish. All the best people do.

Wear masks.

Be pure in mind and body when you carry out sacred service.

Bow your head to no man, but to the divine only.

Always approach the holy crowned.

Adorn your shrines with flowers.

Immerse yourself in prayer and thoughts of your Gods and Spirits. Carry them with you wherever you go.

A gift requires a gift in return.

Remember and honor those who came before you. You would not be who you are without them.

Nothing is perfect – or needs to be.

Test yourself in the flame.

Let spiders live.

You always have time for worship. If you don’t, rearrange your schedule. Do you really want to tell them that they are not a priority in your life, that they aren’t worthy of your time and attention?

First master the rites and traditions that have been handed down to you; then only may you improvise.

All that is beautiful is dear to the Gods, so make your worship as beautiful as you can.

Begin every endeavor with a sacrifice.

Worship outdoors as often as you can.

Cities are outdoors too.

Learn everything about the place where you live.

Don’t come to the Gods only in times of need.

Make amends swiftly.

Never let your shrines gather dust through neglect.

Treat strangers as you would treat Hermes.

Do not revile another’s God. There are strange alliances among the powers.

Pray from the heart with honest words. Your Gods know you — there is nothing you can hide from them even if you wanted to.

Read Plutarch and Seneca if you would be wise, pious and happy.

Should is an abyss.

What you do is more important than what you call yourself.

Your past shaped you — it does not define you.

Demonstrate your beliefs through your actions.

Make purchases that reflect a right relationship with the world.

Don’t buy stuff for your stuff.

Create instead of just being a consumer.

Remember that every time you’re looking at a screen you’re missing what’s going on around you.

Pay attention to animals. They know things you don’t.

Plants know things even animals do not.

Mark the passage of the seasons.

It’s more fun on the margins.

You aren’t your labels, your fandoms, or the things you own.

Be selective in the media you consume, for it lives on in you afterwards.

Question everything. Seriously, it cannot be said enough: question everything. Even why you should question everything.

Try new things, even things you don’t think you’re going to like, because experiences are precious.

Never be ashamed.

Don’t bleed before you’re wounded.

Regret is a wasteful emotion.

If you don’t prioritize your happiness, don’t expect others to.

Don’t let others drag you down.

All you can do is suggest. In the end others will live the way they want to.

Accept others as they are. You can’t change them.

Don’t let others change you in ways you don’t want them to.

Know who you have to prove your worth to – and who you don’t.

It’s your mind — expand it however you want.

Push your own boundaries, but accept those of others.

Know when to stop.

Know the risks before you play.

Don’t do anything you aren’t willing to accept the consequences for.

Don’t ever be bored or boring.

Always hunger for more.

Balance the scales.

Feelings are not actions.

You can always walk away.

Be suspicious of those who express themselves through maxims.

Everything dances.

No matter what other Gods and Spirits you worship, honor Dionysos.

Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg

One of my favorite pieces of Old English literature is the eponymous poem by the scop Deor:

The poem Deor is a lament by its namesake about his exile from his life of luxury, respect, and popularity. He compares his current predicament to the predicaments of figures from Anglo-Saxon folklore. Among the miseries and dismal fates that Deor runs through are those of Theodoric the Great, Ermanaric of the Goths, the mythological smith Wayland, and Wayland’s victim Beadohilde (the daughter of Wayland’s captor; he raped her and she finds herself with child). Geat and Maethild are more obscure figures, but it has been proposed that their story is the same as that told in the relatively recent medieval Scandinavian ballad known as the Power of the Harp; variants of this folk ballad from all the Scandinavian nations are known, and in some of these variants the names of the protagonists are Gauti and Magnhild.

Each suffered an undeserved fate, and in each case “that passed away with respect to it, and so may this.” But this refrain can point at two very different statements: first, that remedy came about, one way or another, in each situation, or, alternatively, that the continuous flow of time (a favourite Anglo-Saxon topic) erases all pain (though not necessarily healing all wounds).

Only in the last stanza do we learn what “this” references: the poet’s own sorrow at having lost his position of privilege. At the poem’s conclusion, Deor reveals that he was once a great poet among the Heodenings, until he was displaced and sent wandering by Heorrenda, a more skillful poet. According to Norse mythology, the Heodenings (Hjaðningar) were involved in the never-ending “battle of the Heodenings”, the Hjaðningavíg. Heorrenda (Hjarrandi) was one of the names of the god Odin.

Which lead to this collection of legends about Þiðreks or Dietrich von Bern, containing gems such as:

Theoderic the Great was an Arian and despised by the Church for a persecution resulting in the deaths of Boethius, Symmachus, and Pope John I. Theoderic’s death shortly after these killings was seen as divine retribution and in a church tradition dating at least from Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, Pope John and Symmachus’s souls were said to have dropped Theoderic’s soul into Mount Etna, to suffer there until the end of days. Heroic traditions make no mention of these events, and generally present Dietrich as an upstanding Christian, though hints of influence from church tradition can be found in allusions to Dietrich’s father possibly being the devil, his fiery breath, and allusions to Dietrich’s ride to hell at the end of his life.


At this point the three texts diverge – in all, Fasold treacherously leads Dietrich to members of his family in hopes that they will kill him, taking him to the giant Eckenot (whose name Gillespie suggests may be a corruption of Ebenrot or vice versa) and then to two or three giantesses, variously Ecke’s mother, aunt, or sisters. Dietrich finally kills Fasold. In the Dresdner version, he then rides into Jochgrimm and throws the head of Ecke at the feet of Seburg, saying that she is the cause of Ecke’s pointless death.

Based on folkloric evidence, 19th-century scholarship believed that the three queens on Jochgrimm represented three witches who caused storms from that mountain in Tyrolian folklore, as evidenced by a 17th-century prayer to the witches to cause “ffasolt” to send storms far away. Fasold would thus be a wind-demon. This interpretation is complicated by apparent similarities between the poem and the French late Arthurian romance Le Chevalier du Papagau, where Arthur fights a giant whose lack of horse is similarly emphasized to that of Ecke.


The jüngerer Sigenot adds a beginning in which Hildebrand tells Dietrich about Sigenot and warns him not to go into the forest to fight the giant. Then, before encountering the giant, Dietrich fights a wild man who is keeping the dwarf Baldung captive. As a reward, the dwarf gives Dietrich a protective jewel and directs him to Sigenot. Dietrich fights Sigenot and is taken prisoner. Sigenot throws Dietrich into a snake pit, but the jewel protects him. Hildebrand, now worried by Dietrich’s long absence, sets out to find him: on the way he encounters Sigenot and is taken prisoner. Left alone, Hildebrand frees himself and dresses in Dietrich’s armor. He then slays Sigenot and frees Dietrich with Eggerich’s help.


At a feast being held by Etzel, who is described as a greater king than Arthur, a beautiful maiden appears asking for help from the Wunderer, who has been hunting her for three days and wants to eat her. This is because she has sworn chastity, and has thus spurned the Wunderer’s love. The lady has special gifts however: at first glance she can see the true character of a person, her blessing makes one invincible in battle, and she can transport herself to any place automatically. She sees that Etzel is a coward, and he points her to his heroes. First she asks Rüdiger, but he refuses as well, so Etzel shows her to another room where Dietrich is sitting. Dietrich is ready to fight for the girl if Etzel agrees, but Etzel is worried that Dietrich’s relatives would seek revenge should anything happen to Dietrich. At this point, however, the Wunderer appears in the feast hall. Dietrich then agrees to fight without Etzel’s blessing, and the maiden blesses him. First he kills the Wunderer’s hounds, then knocks the Wunderer down after he strikes the lady. The two fight, and Dietrich wins. The lady reveals herself to be Frau Saelde, good-luck personified, and the feast ends.

The text is interesting in its relation to Dietrich’s death: according to some traditions, Dietrich become the leader of the Wild Hunt and chased nymphs through the forests. Church tradition, coming from the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, also made the claim that Theoderic’s soul had been seen dropped into Mount Etna for his sins. Instead of Dietrich as the Wild Huntsman, the Wunderer is placed in this role, and Dietrich defends the lady he is attacking. Additionally, the narrator mentions that Dietrich is still alive today: because of fault he is carried off by the devil in the form of a horse to Rumeney (Romagna?) to fight dragons until the end of days. The poem could thus be understood as a refutation of the idea of Dietrich as either damned or a hunter of women.

19th century scholarship attempted to connect Frau Saelde of the poem with “Saligen”, female figures of Tyrolean folk stories who are chased by the Wild Huntsman. Modern scholarship views this as unprovable, and would rather see Frau Saelde as a reflex of the personification Fortuna, i.e. a literary rather than a folk element of the poem. This does not make it any less likely that the hunting of women was connected to Dietrich at an early date, given the attested folk stories of him as the Wild Huntsman and the appearance of Wild-Huntsman like figures in two other poems, however.


[…] begins with a conversation between Witige and Hildebrand. Witige says that Dietrich is the greatest hero of all time; Hildebrand objects that Dietrich has never experienced a twergenâventiure (dwarf-adventure). At that point Dietrich walks in and is very angered by Hildebrand’s private criticism. Hildebrand tells Dietrich where he can find such an adventure: the dwarf king Laurin has a rose-garden in the Tyrolian forest. He will fight any challenger who breaks the thread surrounding his rose garden. Dietrich and Witige immediately set off to challenge Laurin; Hildebrand and Dietleib follow secretly behind. Upon seeing the beautiful rose-garden, Dietrich relents and decides that he does not want to harm anything so lovely. Witige, however, says that Laurin’s pride must be punished, and not only breaks the thread, but tramples the entire rose garden. Almost immediately the dwarf Laurin, armed so wonderfully that Witige mistakes him for Michael the Archangel, appears, and demands the left foot and right hand of Witige as punishment for the destruction of the garden. He fights and defeats Witige, but Dietrich then decides that he cannot allow his vassal to lose his limbs, and fights Laurin himself. Initially, Dietrich is losing, but Hildebrand arrives and tells Dietrich to steal the dwarf’s cloak of invisibility and strength-granting belt, then fight him on foot (the dwarf had been riding a deer-sized horse) wrestling him to the ground. Laurin, now defeated, pleads for mercy, but Dietrich has become enraged and vows to kill the dwarf. Finally, Laurin turns to Dietleib, informing him he had kidnapped and married the hero’s sister, so that he was now Dietleib’s brother-in-law. Dietleib hides the dwarf and prepares to fight Dietrich, but Hildebrand makes peace between them.

Dietrich and Laurin are reconciled, and Laurin invites the heroes to his kingdom under the mountain. All are enthusiastic except Witige, who senses treachery. In the mountain they are well received, and Dietleib meets his sister. She tells him she is being well treated and that Laurin has only one fault: he is not Christian. She wants to leave. Meanwhile, Laurin, after a feast, confides to Dietleib’s sister that he wishes to avenge himself on the heroes. She advises him to do so. He drugs Witige, Hildebrand, and Dietrich and throws them into a dungeon. He tries to commit Dietleib to join his side, but locks him in a chamber when the hero refuses. Dietleib’s sister steals the stones that light the mountain and releases Dietleib. They then deliver weapons to the other heroes, and they begin a slaughter of all the dwarves in the mountain. In the end Laurin is taken as a jester back to Verona.

A connection exists between this story and a Tyrolian folk-story in which the rose garden is the source of the morning-glow on the Alps. Heinzle, however, believes that, since this story is only attested from the 17th century onward, it is more likely to have been influenced by the text than the other way around. Others have attempted to connect the rose garden to a cult of the dead. Similarities with Celtic inspired Arthurian romance (the rose garden as otherworld) have also been proposed.

Lots of interesting parallels with the Herlaþing, wouldn’t you say?

terror-of-giants is his name


Horace, Carmina 2.12

I saw Bacchus on distant cliffs – believe me,
O posterity – he was teaching songs there,
and the Nymphs were learning them, and all
the goat-footed Satyrs with pointed ears.

Evoe ! My mind fills with fresh fear, my heart
filled with Bacchus, is troubled, and violently
rejoices. Evoe! Spare me, Liber,
dreaded for your mighty thyrsus, spare me.

It’s right to sing of the wilful Bacchantes,
the fountain of wine, and the rivers of milk,
to sing of the honey that’s welling,
and sliding down from the hollow tree-trunks:
It’s right to sing of your bride turned goddess, your
Ariadne, crowned among stars: the palace
of Pentheus, shattered in ruins,
and the ending of Thracian Lycurgus.

You direct the streams, and the barbarous sea,
and on distant summits, you drunkenly tie
the hair of the Bistonian women,
with harmless knots made of venomous snakes.

When the impious army of Giants tried
to climb through the sky to Jupiter’s kingdom,
you hurled back Rhoetus, with the claws
and teeth of the terrifying lion.

Though you’re said to be more suited to dancing,
laughter, and games, and not equipped to suffer
the fighting, nevertheless you shared
the thick of battle as well as the peace.

Cerberus saw you, unharmed, and adorned
with your golden horn, and, stroking you gently,
with his tail, as you departed, licked
your ankles and feet with his triple tongue.

θάνατος. βίος. θάνατος.


Although Liberalia is not part of the official House of Vines festival calendar for the year 2018 e.v. it has always been one of my favorite Bacchic feasts. (I tend to think of it as Beenis Day, as bees and penises are the primary themes of the occasion.)

While preparing the post with the excerpt from Ovid’s Fasti something stood out for me that hadn’t upon previous readings:

He fell headlong, and received a kick from the ass, as he shouted to his friends and called for help. The Satyrs ran up, and laughed at their father’s face, while he limped about on his damaged knee. Bacchus himself laughed and showed him the use of mud: Silenus took his advice, and smeared his face with clay.

No, no. Not the alternative aition for titanos. This bit:

The Kite star turns downwards near the Lycaonian Bear: on this night it’s first visible. If you wish to know who raised that falcon to heaven, it was when Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter: angered, he stirred the mighty Titans to battle, and sought whatever help the Fates could grant him. There was a bull, a marvellous monster, born of Mother Earth, the hind part of which was of serpent-form: warned by the three Fates, grim Styx had imprisoned him in dark woods, surrounded by triple walls. There was a prophecy that whoever burnt the entrails of the bull in the flames would defeat the Eternal Gods. Briareus sacrificed it with an adamantine axe, and was about to set the innards on the flames: but Jupiter ordered the birds to snatch them: and the Kite brought them, and his service set him among the stars.

And so it begins.




Augustine, De Civitate Dei 7.21
Now as to the rites of Liber, whom they have set over liquid seeds, and therefore not only over the liquors of fruits, among which wine holds, so to speak, the primacy, but also over the seeds of animals:— as to these rites, I am unwilling to undertake to show to what excess of turpitude they had reached, because that would entail a lengthened discourse, though I am not unwilling to do so as a demonstration of the proud stupidity of those who practice them. Varro says that certain rites of Liber were celebrated in Italy which were of such unrestrained wickedness that the shameful parts of the male were worshipped at crossroads in his honour. Nor was this abomination transacted in secret that some regard at least might be paid to modesty, but was openly and wantonly displayed. For during the festival of Liber this obscene member, placed on a little trolley, was first exhibited with great honour at the crossroads in the countryside, and then conveyed into the city itself. But in the town of Lavinium a whole month was devoted to Liber alone, during the days of which all the people gave themselves up to the must dissolute conversation, until that member had been carried through the forum and brought to rest in its own place; on which unseemly member it was necessary that the most honorable matron should place a wreath in the presence of all the people. Thus, forsooth, was the god Liber to be appeased in order for the growth of seeds. Thus was enchantment (fascinatio) to be driven away from fields, even by a matron’s being compelled to do in public what not even a harlot ought to be permitted to do in a theatre, if there were matrons among the spectators.



From the third book of Ovid’s Fasti

There’s a popular festival of Bacchus, on the third day after the Ides: Bacchus, favour the poet who sings your feast. I’ll not speak about Semele: you’d have been born defenceless, If it hadn’t been that Jupiter brought her his lightning too. Nor will I tell how the mother’s labour was fulfilled in a father’s body, so you might duly be born their son. It would take long to tell of the conquered Sithonians, and the Scythians, and the races of incense-bearing India. I’ll be silent about you too, Pentheus, sad prey to your own mother, and you Lycurgus, who killed your own son in madness. Lo, I’d like to speak of the monstrous Tyrrhenians, who suddenly became dolphins, but that’s not the task of this verse. The task of this verse is to set out the reasons why a vine-planter sells his cakes to the crowd.

Liber, before your birth the altars were without offerings, and grass appeared on the stone-cold hearths. They tell how you set aside the first fruits for Jupiter, after subduing the Ganges region, and the whole of the East. You were the first to offer up cinnamon and incense from conquered lands, and the roast entrails of triumphal oxen. Libations derive their name from their originator, And cake (liba) since a part is offered on the sacred hearth. Honey-cakes are baked for the God, because he delights in sweet substances, and they say that Bacchus discovered honey.

He was travelling from sandy Hebrus, accompanied by Satyrs, (my tale contains a not-unpleasant jest) and he’d come to Mount Rhodope, and flowering Pangaeus: with the cymbals clashing in his companions’ hands. Behold unknown winged things gather to the jangling, bees, that follow after the echoing bronze. Liber gathered the swarm and shut it in a hollow tree, And was rewarded with the prize of discovering honey. Once the Satyrs, and old bald-headed Silenus, had tasted it, they searched for the yellow combs in every tree. The old fellow heard a swarm humming in a hollow elm, saw the honeycombs, but pretended otherwise: and sitting lazily on his hollow-backed ass, he rode it up to the elm where the trunk was hollow. He stood and leant on the stump of a branch, And greedily reached for the honey hidden inside. But thousands of hornets gathered, thrusting their stings into his bald head, leaving their mark on his snub-nosed face. He fell headlong, and received a kick from the ass, as he shouted to his friends and called for help. The Satyrs ran up, and laughed at their father’s face, while he limped about on his damaged knee. Bacchus himself laughed and showed him the use of mud: Silenus took his advice, and smeared his face with clay.

Father Liber loves honey: its right to offer its discoverer Glittering honey diffused through oven-warm cakes. The reason why a woman presides isn’t obscure: Bacchus stirs crowds of women with his thyrsus. Why an old woman, you ask? That age drinks more, and loves the gifts of the teeming vine. Why is she wreathed with ivy? Ivy’s dearest to Bacchus: and why that’s so doesn’t take long to tell. They say that when Juno his stepmother was searching for the boy, the nymphs of Nysa hid the cradle in ivy leaves.

It remains for me to reveal why the toga virilis, the gown Of manhood, is given to boys on your day, Bacchus: whether it’s because you seem to be ever boy or youth, and your age is somewhere between the two: or because you’re a father, fathers commend their sons, their pledges of love, to your care and divinity: or because you’re Liber, the gown of liberty and a more liberated life are adopted, for you: or is it because, in the days when the ancients tilled the fields more vigorously, and Senators worked their fathers’ land, and ‘rods and axes’ took Consuls from the curving plough, and it wasn’t a crime to have work-worn hands, the farmers came to the City for the games, (though that was an honour paid to the Gods, and not their inclination: and the grape’s discoverer held his games this day, while now he shares that of torch-bearing Ceres.) And the day seemed not unfitting for granting the toga, so that a crowd could celebrate the fresh novice? Father turn your mild head here, and gentle horns, and spread the sails of my art to a favourable breeze.

If I remember rightly, on this, and the preceding day, crowds go to the Argei (their own page will tell who they are). The Kite star turns downwards near the Lycaonian Bear: on this night it’s first visible. If you wish to know who raised that falcon to heaven, it was when Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter: angered, he stirred the mighty Titans to battle, And sought whatever help the Fates could grant him. There was a bull, a marvellous monster, born of Mother Earth, the hind part of which was of serpent-form: warned by the three Fates, grim Styx had imprisoned him in dark woods, surrounded by triple walls. There was a prophecy that whoever burnt the entrails of the bull, in the flames, would defeat the Eternal Gods. Briareus sacrificed it with an adamantine axe, and was about to set the innards on the flames: but Jupiter ordered the birds to snatch them: and the Kite brought them, and his service set him among the stars.



Plutarch, De Anima fragment preserved in Stobaios Florigelium 120
When the soul comes to the point of death, it suffers something like those who participate in the great initiations (teletai). Therefore the word teleutan closely resembles the word teleisthai just as the act of dying resembles the act of being initiated. At first there are wanderings and toilsome running about in circles and journeys through the dark over uncertain roads and culs de sacs; then, just before the end, there are all kinds of terrors, with shivering, trembling, sweating, and utter amazement. After this, a strange and wonderful light meets the wanderer; he is admitted into clean and verdant meadows, where he discerns gentle voices, and choric dances, and the majesty of holy sounds and sacred visions. Here the now fully initiated is free, and walks at liberty like a crowned and dedicated victim, joining in the revelry.