interesting to think about

One point on which I disagree with Nicola Mureddu is his comparison of the paradoxical pairings on the Olbian bone tablets with some of the more enigmatic phrases found in the fragments of the Ephesian philosopher Herakleitos, whom he feels has little to do with Dionysos. I feel that this is mistaken for two reasons; first, Herakleitos’ logoi are incredibly Dionysian and not just when he’s commenting on Bacchic cult practice, using mystery terminology, a couple of his fragments circulated under the name of Orpheus, etc. and secondly I think a more fruitful comparison can be made with Empedokles of Akragas who (like the probable author of the bone tablets, Pharnabazos) was an itinerant religious specialist (an agyrtes or Orpheotelest in the words of Plato) who practiced divination and the healing arts. His central conception was that there were four “roots” (ῥιζώματα) or generative substances (i.e. Air, Earth, Fire and Water) out of which all things arise and have their being through an admixture and subtraction of these primal elemental powers (identified with Hera, Haides, Zeus and Nestis, a local form of the Goddess Persephone) which are acted upon by Love (φιλότης, the force of attraction) and Strife (νεῖκος, the cause of separation.) Empedokles goes on to elaborate a complex cosmology seemingly full of drug-fueled hallucinations including cyclical births and deaths of the world, creatures that are half-human and half-beast as well as others that are hermaphrodites, and daimones from an alien realm trapped in mortal flesh like some kind of Philip K. Dick novel. It’s cool shit, and I sense a similar mind at work behind the bone tablets; though I also detect the coincidentia oppositorum of Herakleitos and the Sol Niger, so who knows? It’s certainly interesting to think about. 

The sacred zigzag

Speaking of the Bacchic Orphic bone tablets from Olbia, Nicola Mureddu sums up the different scholarly interpretations of the zigzag and other symbols found interspersed among the enigmatic phrases inscribed on them in his Truth carved on Bones – Studying the mythological and cultic meaning of the Orphic Bone Plaques of the Black Sea

The zigzag has however been interpreted in many different ways: Rusyaeva had initially thought to see a letter sigma in it, standing for Zagreus, another incarnation of the Orphic Dionysus. But she soon realized that at the time of its carving that letter was identical with the Phoenician zayin shaped as an I. West interprets it as both a snake, a well known symbol of rebirth, and a lightning bolt, the divine power which both generated Dionysus and killed Orpheus. Bilde offers a more imaginative solution: according to her the zigzag may be the symbol of a key, a divine key that only a god possesses, as indicated by Pausanias’ description: “What is called Hades has been locked up by Plouton.” So if the zigzag is Plouton’s key, it symbolizes the mastering of life and death. The A can be the initial of another name, but West’s vision of a stylized boukranion symbolizing then a horned figure is remarkable. The second plaque shows a symbol similar to a ship, a ship of which the sail resembles, as noticed by Rusyaeva, a disguised A. The third has again a drawing, this time of a horse; again Rusyaeva sees hidden in its mane a letter A, this time no names are written beside the figure. The fourth plaque carries again Greek words, once more expressed by opposites: Eirene, Polemos and Aletheia, Pseudos, again signed Dion accompanied by the usual A. This plaque has an inscribed verso; it shows the zigzag figure in a more detailed manner, another similar figure and a rectangular field divided into seven compartments in which oval figures are placed at different heights. The zigzag here is read as a combination of I, A and X, an abbreviation for Iakchos. In the seven compartments Rusyaeva recognizes the seven parts into which Dionysus was dismembered according to one of the myths. West on the other hand comments that such a schematic design had way too many possible interpretations among which he envisages a cultic offer of eggs or a musical instrument.

Some notes I’ve collected on abortion and Dionysos

I know that I’ve come across a couple more sources in the course of my studies not mentioned here, but that was before the shift in my views took place and I didn’t bother keeping records. I’m presenting this information to explain, not to persuade. I’m not trying to change anyone’s minds.

ISmyrna 728 (LSAM 84; SEG XIV.752)

… son of Menandros, the revealer of the god (theophantēs), set this up…  All you (?) … who enter the sanctuary and shrines of Bromios (“Thunderer”) should refrain from the exposure of new–born infants for forty days, so that blood guilt does not ensue.  Likewise refrain from contact with a woman’s miscarriage (or: abortion) for the same number of days.  Now if death and fate descends on someone in the household, perform the rites outside the gateway of the household after one–third of the month (i.e. ten days), and if some defilement comes from other households, stay away three days after encountering a decaying corpse.  (10) Nor should those wearing black clothing approach the altars of the Lord, nor should anyone lay hands on sacred offerings not yet sacrificed, nor … bring (?) … an egg into the Bacchic festivities, especially during the banquets, nor offer a heart on the sacred altars … also abstain from mint, which Demeter scattered (?) … most hateful root of beans from … make a proclamation about the Titans to the initiates (mystai) … and it is not lawful to rattle the reeds … thrown, by whom the initiates … sacrifices … nor carry …

[. . . .]της Μενάνδρου ὁ θεοφάντης ἀνέθηκεν. | [πάν]τ̣ες ὅσοι τέμενος Βρομίου ναούς τε περᾶτε, | τ̣εσσαράκοντα μὲν ἤματα ἀπ’ ἐχθέσεως (ἐκθέσεως) πεφύλαχθε | νηπιάχοιο βρέφους, μὴ δὴ μήνειμα γένηται, || ἔκτρωσίν τε γυναικὸς ὁμοίως ἤματα τόσσα· | ἢν δέ τιν’ οἰκείων θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα καλύψῃ, | εἴργεσθαι μηνὸς τρίτατον μέρος ἐκ προπύλοιο· | ἢν δ’ ἂρ’ ἀπ’ ἀλλοτρίων οἴκων τι μίασμα γένηται, | ἠελίους τρισσοὺς μεῖναι νέκυος φθιμένοιο, || μηδὲ μελανφάρους προσίναι βωμοῖσι ἄνακ̣τ̣[ος, —] | μηδ’ ἀθύτοις θυσίαις ἱερῶν ἐπὶ χῖρας ἰάλ[λειν, —] | μηδ’ ἐν Βακχείοις ᾠὸν ποτὶ δαῖτα τ[ίθεσθαι (?) —] | καὶ κραδίην καρποῦν ἱεροῖς βωμοῖς̣ [— — — —] | ἡδεόσμου τ’ ἀπέχεσθαι, ὃν Δη̣μ̣[ήτηρ ἀμάθυνεν (?)·] || ἐχθροτάτην ῥίζαν κυάμων ἐκ σπέ̣[— — — —] | Τειτάνων προλέγειν μύσταις̣ [— — — — — ] | καὶ καλάμοισι κροτεῖν οὐ θέσ̣[μιον εἶναι — —] | ἤμασιν, οἷς μύσται θυσί̣[ας — — — — —] | [μηδ]ὲ̣ φορ̣ε̣ῖν Σ̣Υ̣ (?) [— — — — — — — —]

Translation by Philip P. Harland

ISmyrna 728 (LSAM 84; SEG XIV.752)

_____tes, the son of Menander, the theophant, has dedicated (this): All those who set foot in the temenos and temples of Bromios, be careful to wait 40 days after the exposure of a newborn baby, so that divine wrath may not be aroused; likewise so many days after a woman’s abortion (or miscarriage). But if fateful death cover any relative, be excluded from the propylon a third part of a month; but if a pollution comes from other people’s families, wait three suns after the corpse perishes. Do not go near the altars of the lord if you are wearing black clothing; nor lay hands on sacrifices of sacrificial victims not to be offered (or: unoffered sacrifices of sacrificial victims), nor even set (?) an egg as a meal in the Bakcheia, and it is not lawful to burn heart on the sacred altars, and stay away from mint, which (?) …………. which is the most hateful root from the seed of beans …….. proclaim to the mystai (about) the Titans …….. and it is not lawful for them to make rattling noises with reeds, on the days, on which the mystai ……. sacrifices …….. and do not wear (?) ……….

Translation by Susan Guettel Cole


For exposure of a child, forty days. A lex sacra from Ptolemais requires 14 days in some cases and may have required 40 days in others; LSCG Suppl. 119, first century B.C. (the text is corrupt). Nilsson attributes the requirement at Smyrna to the concern for children in Bacchic cults. Cameron, CR 46 (1932) 109-10, argues that in spite of the widespread practice of exposure of unwanted children in antiquity, a special concern for children who died shortly after birth appears as early as Plato, and suggests that this was an Orphic concern. A child who died too soon [1a)/wroS1]1 was assigned a special place of suffering in the underworld (Verg. Aen. 6.426; Plut. De Gen.Soc. 590f; Luc. Kat. 5; Tert. De Anima 55). Exposure of children was also a concern of one branch of the Stoics (Mus. Ruf. 15). The divinity for whom the text from Ptolemais was inscribed is not known, and it is therefore impossible to conclude that a concern for an exposed child was a feature of Bacchic cult. Children seem to have played an important role in Dionysiac cult in the Imperial period. They appear often in representations of Dionysaic cult activity; see F. Matz, DIONUSIAKH TELETH [1Wiesbaden 1963]1 pl. 8.1, the initiation of a young boy. Dionysiac motifs decorate the sarcophagoi of children who died young; see F. Matz, Die dionysischen Sarkophage (Berlin 1968-75) nos. 16, 78, 156, 199-202, 214, 230, 236. Dionysiac themes, howver, appear infrequently in the epitaphs for children who died young; see A-M. Vé.rilhac, PAIDES AWROI (ATHENS 1978) I nos. 47, 79, 80, 190, 196.

For a miscarriage or abortion, 40 days. Greek vocabulary does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary abortion; see J. and L. Robert, BE 1955.189. A waiting period of forty days after miscarriage or abortion is customary in other cults; see E. Nardi, Eranion in honorem G. S. Maridakis I (Athens 1963) 432-85 and Studi in onore di Edoardo Volterra I (Milan 1971) 141-48; R. Parker, Miasma (Oxford 1983) 354-56. In addition to the inscription from Ptolemais (which gives 40 days for miscarrage or abortion), cf. LSCG Suppl. 54 (Delos), 91 (Lindos); LSCG 55 (Laurion), 139 (Lindos). LSCG 171 (Isthmos) gives a ten day waiting period; BCH 102 (1978) 325 (Megalopolis) gives 44 days. LSCG 124 (Eresos) requires a waiting period of 40 days in the case of a stillbirth. Forty days at Smyrna, therefore, is not excessive.

The wearing of white was a requirement in some Orphic or Pythagorean groups; see Hdt. 2.81; Eur. Cret. 79 (Austin); Diog. Laert. 8.19; Iamb. VP 100, 149, 155.

Pythagoreans did not eat the heart of any animal. According to Aulus Gellius (4.11), Plutarch (fr. 122 Sandbach) attributed this fact to Aristotle (frag. 194 Rose; see also Plut. Quaes. Conv. 635c; cf. Porph. VP 42 (=DK 58 C 6: mh\ kardi/an e)sqi/ein). The Pythagoreans did not eat heart because they believed that the heart was the source of life and strength (Clem. Al. Str. 2.17.2, 2.22.5; see M. Tierney, Mé.langes E. Boisacq [Brussels 1935] 317-21; W. Burkert, Weisheit und Wissenschaft [Nüaut.rnberg 1962] 166-67=Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism [Cambridge MA 1972] 180-85). Such a restriction could be operative here. It is almost certain that the restriction here is explained by the myth of the dismemberment of Dionysos by the Titans, where Athena preserves the heart of Dionysos (Firm. Mat. De Err. Prof. Relig. 6 p.15,2 Ziegler=Kern, OF 214). The myth, in its essentials, may be as old as the fifth century B.C. (Pind. frag. 133; cf. W. Burkert, Homo Necans, 225 n.43.). The Titans themselves are .cm this is the american ed mentioned in this inscription (see line 16); for reservations about this connection, however, see Henrichs, Lollianos, 70 n.6. M. Tierney, CQ 16 (1922) 77-88, argues that the Gurob papyrus (=Kern, OF 31) describes a sacrifice of a ram and goat to Dionysos Zagreus, where the heart was not eaten, but taken away, reading in line 3 [kar]dioforeiaS1 teleth/n and arguing on the basis of Clem. Al. Protr. 2.22, that kardi/ai were part of the secret objects in the Dionysiac cista mystica.

Cf. OP. Hal. 3.488-97: kli/nato d) ei)S1 eu)nh\n *)Ai+dwne/oS1: a)ll) o(\te kou/rhn &bar; Persefo/nhn h(/rpacen a)p) Ai)tnai/oio pa/goio, &bar; dh\ to/te min kla/zousan u(perfia/loiS1 e)pe/essi,&bar; zh/lw| margai/nousan a)ta/sqala, mhni/sasa &bar; Dhmh/thr a)ma/qunen e)pembai/nousa pedi/loiS1:&bar;…poi/h d) ou)tidanh\ kai) e)pw/numoS1 e)/kqore gai/hS1. Ovid knew the story of Minthe, daughter of Peitho, changed by Persephone into a plant (Met 10.728-30; cf. schol. Nic. Alex. 374; Lobeck, Aglaophamus (1829) II 833-34). .cm this is Nicander, Alexipharmaca- Demeter and Persephone find Minthe an abominable rival, but Demeter herself once accepted a drink made with mint, barley and water. This mint was pennyroyal [1blh/xwn or glh/xwn: glh/xwni terei/nh|, Hymn. Hom. 2.209). For the medicinal uses of blh/xwn/glh/xwn, see A. Delatte, Le cycé.on (Paris 1955) 726 (BAB:Ecit. 40 [1954]).

There were various forms of mint, some beneficial, others harmful. An Orphic poem explains why kala/minqoS1, a wild form of h(du/osmon, once “a great and fruitful (fere/karpon]1 plant upon the earth” became a plant sterile and without fruit (a)/karpon]1: Demeter, in her grief changed its nature (Etym. Gud. s.v. mi/nqh; Kern, OF 44). The mythical character Minthe and the plant she represents seem to be associated with the cult of Demeter. Strabo gives the myth of Persephone and Minthe as aetiology for the mountain named for Minthe, located in the area of Pylos, near a temenos of Hades and a grove of Demeter; Strab. 8.3.14, 344c.

The issue here, however, is why such a plant should have meaning for Dionysiac cult. The Orphic poet, who explains the transformation of wild mint from fruitful to barren is perhaps the clue. Dionysos, like Demeter is a god of plant and human fertility. Like Demeter he is known by the epithet Karpofo/roS1; see SEG 19.481-83, 24.1122, 1124; For Kallika/rpoS1, see below nos. &oma (Mopsuestia), &qma, &rma (Aigeai). For Poluka/rpoS1, see IGBR I&S’&sub2;. 195.1-2, apparatus (Odessos). For Eu)ka/rpoS1, see IGBR:Ecit. I&S’&sub2;. 351 (Messambria). Dionysos is associated with forces that make the earth and humans fruitful. For his epithet Fleu/S1, “one who makes to swell or teem with abundance,” see IEphesos 902, 1257, 1270, 1595 (=nos. &nga., &sga., &qga., &rga.); IErythrai 207 (=no. ifa.); IPriene 174 (=no.pha.). For a discussion of the meaning of the epithet, see no. nga. (Ephesos), on lines 6-7. For these characteristics as especially characteristic of Dionysos in Ionia and Ionian colonies on the Black Sea, see N. Ehrhardt, Milet und seine Kolonien (Frankfurt 1983) 169-70. Dionysos himself is described by Fere/karpoS1 (Hymn. Orph. 50.10), the same epithet used by the Orphic poet to describe mint before Demeter’s attack made it sterile. It is Dionysos’ power as a god of fertility that would be directly threatened by a plant associated with sterility. It is important to note that Dionysos was thought to have influence not only on the fertility of the earth, but on the potency and fertility of humans, males in particular. This aspect of Dionysiac frenzy is best represented in cult by the Phallephoria, the processions at the Dionysia where reprentations of the phallos were carried around the theater. This aspect of Dionysos is not restricted to fertility rituals, but seems to have been part of the worship of Dionysos as god of the theater. For evidence from Delos for the celebration of the phallephoria as part of the Dionysia, see P. Bruneau, Recherches sur les cultes de Dé.los (Paris 1970) 312-321, texts dating from 304 to 169 B.C.; see no.tta, Delos). For Dionysos as the god of the fallhfo/ria, see Herter, RE XXXVIII (1938) 1673-81. When Dioscorides describes the negative effects of a surfeit of mint on the sexual capacity of the male, he describes a reaction that would threaten the role of Dionysos as a god of male potency and sexual activity. It is this aspect of Dionysiac fertility that the prohibition against mint at Smyrna must have been designed to protect.

CGRN 144 (SB I 3451; AGRW 16232)

Those entering into the … temple (?) … are to be pure in accordance with the following: from death of one’s own family member or … of another (?) … on the 7th day; from death at child–birth, having taken part in a miscarriage (or: abortion), on the 40th day; from having given birth and nursed, on the … xth day; and if it is exposed, on the 14th day; from having sex with a woman on the 2nd day, and the same holds for women having sex with men; responsibility for a miscarriage (or: abortion) on the 40th day, … on account of encountering death (?) … ; and giving birth and nursing on the … xth day; and if the infant is exposed on the 14th day; from a woman’s monthly period on the 7th day; … the woman from (?) having sex with a man on the 2nd day; and from contact with (?) myrtle on the 2nd day.

τοὺς εἰσιόντας εἰς τὸ̣ [ἱερὸν] ǀ ἁγνεύειν κατὰ ὑποκε̣[ίμενα]· ǀ ἀπὸ πάθους ἰδίου καὶ [ἀλλοτρίου] ǀ ἡμέρας ζʹ, ἀπ̣’ ἀπαλλ[αγῇ ἡ γο]ǀǀ[ν]ή, ἐκτρωσμοῦ συν[ελθόντος, μʹ]. ǀ τετοκυαίας καὶ τρεφούσης ․ʹ· ǀ καὶ ἐὰν ἐχθῇ ιδʹ· τοὺς δὲ ἄ[νδρας] ǀ [ἀ]πὸ γυναικὸς βʹ, τὰς δὲ γ[υναῖκας] ǀ ἀκολούθως τοῖς ἀνδρά[σιν· τὴν μὲν αἰτί]ǀǀαν ἐκτρωσμοῦ μʹ, [ἀπαλλαγῆς ἔνεκα]· ǀ τὴν δὲ τεκοῦσαν καὶ τρέ̣[φουσαν ․ʹ]· ǀ [ἐ]ὰν δὲ ἐχθῇ τὸ βρέφος [ιδʹ]· ǀ ἀπὸ καταμηνίων ζʹ· [τὰς δὲ γυναῖκας ἀπ’] ǀ ἀνδρὸς βʹ, μυρσίνην δὲ [βʹ].

Translation by Philip P. Harland


Regulations for Entry into a Temple (I BCE)

Ptolemais Hermiou (Upper Egypt)

Although no association is mentioned here, this regulation for entrance sheds light on similar temple-regulations connected to associations, such as the Dionysiac initiates at Smyrna (see GRA 140 = ISmyrna 728).

NGSL 7 (CGRN 155)

Monument (stelē) of Isis and Sarapis.  May the god bring good fortune.  This is a holy temple of Isis, Sarapis, and Anubis.  Anyone who wants to sacrifice may enter into the temple, being purified from childbirth on the 9th day, from miscarriage (or: abortion) on the 44th day, from menstruation on the 7th day, from contact with death on the 7th day, (10) from goat or lamb meat on the 3rd day, from other meats (or: foods) on the same day after washing from head to foot, from sexual intercourse on the same day after washing… (remaining four lines largely lost).

Translation by: Philip P. Harland

στάλα Ἴσιος Σαράπιος. ǀ Θεός, τύχα ἀγαθά. ἱερὸν ἅγιον Ἴσιος ǀ Σαράπιος Ἀνούβιος. vac. εἰσπορεύεσǀθαι εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν τὸν βουλόμενον ǀǀ θύειν καθαρίζοντα ἀπὸ μὲν ǀ λέχ[ο]υς ἐναταίαν, ἀπὸ δὲ διǀαφθέρματος vac. τεσσαράκοντα ǀ καὶ τέσσαρας ἁμέρας, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶ[ν] ǀ φυσικῶν ἑβδομαίαν, ἀπὸ φό[ν]ου ǀǀ ἑπτὰ ἁμέρας, ἀπὸ δὲ αἰγέου καὶ ǀ προβατέου τριταῖον, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ǀ λοιπῶν βρωμάτων ἐκ κεφαλᾶς ǀ λουσάμενον αὐθημερί. ἀπὸ δὲ ǀ ἀφροδισίων αὐθημερί vac. λουσάǀǀμενον, ἀπὸ ΠΑΘΙΝ[—]ΙΑΜΕΙΙΓΑΝ ǀ ΜΟΑΝ αὐθημερὶ λουσἀμε[ν]ον Υǀ[— — —]νεσθαι ΜΗΔΕΜ[— — —] ǀ [— — —] εἰσπορεύεσθα[ι — — —] ǀ [— — —]ΜΕΩΝΠΟ[— — —] ǀǀ [— — —]ΣΘΕ[— — —].

Translation by Philip P. Harland


Regulations of the Temple of Isis, Sarapis, and Anubis (200 BCE)

Megalopolis (Peloponnesos)

Slab of limestone found in 1975 700 metres northeast of the theatre at Megalopolis (64 x 54.5-57.2 x 14.0-15.4 cm). Now in Megalopolis archaeological museum (inv. 133; see Lupu in NGSL 7). There is no mention of an association in the inscription but we do know (from the Delos evidence) that sanctuaries for Egyptian deities could be frequented by such groups. Other regulations for entry into sanctuaries for other deities do mention groups of initiates, including the sanctuary for Bromios at Smyrna (see ISmyrna 728 on this site).

Well, this is going to piss a bunch of people off…

Neptunesdolphins wrote the following:

You know that is one definition for impiety – the presumption that the Gods are always on your side, because you said so.

Beckett tries to couch his writing in terms of well this is the Gods, and this is me, which is fine. But getting into the weeds and writing about Pagans in general, he links the two such as the Gods are for a woman’s right to choose (i.e., abortion). Well, I can think of several Gods who might baulk at that such as the Gods of Childbirth and Fertility. I can be pro-choice, but I cannot assume any of the Gods I follow are.

A God may tell me to do something political since that may be what They do, which is fine. But as you state there is a difference between me and Them.

What I find interesting is when Beckett rails about Christian Nationalists (and others) who do the same thing – assume that God and they think exactly the same.

BTW, nice tea cozy.

To which I replied:

Much appreciated. I think the cozy is rather stylish myself.

And precisely. Although Dionysos is very much about choice and bodily autonomy I’ve found a number of instances where abortion is discouraged or carefully regulated within his cults. I can think of a number of reasons for this – uniquely among the Gods Dionysos is represented as a fetus or premature child; he also has a strong concern for life in general, and young life in particular; as a God of luxuriant vitality, and growth and fertility more generally, abortion is the antithesis of that. I also strongly suspect that the purification rites imposed weren’t punitive but designed to help the woman process what happened and deal with grief and other unresolved emotions which might not otherwise have been addressed within their society before undergoing a process of reintegration and resuming their religious obligations.

So it’s complicated, especially since we’re left with the prescription in isolation. And interestingly the word used can either refer to the intentional termination of a pregnancy or an accidental miscarriage – not only is no context provided to help determine which is meant (assuming they saw a distinction between them) – but most sacred laws don’t even touch on this, so you can’t look to other sources for clarification either. (I will note that in the instances where this regulation shows up we’re either dealing with a Dionysiac cult interested in promoting fertility or else there’s a strong Orphic and Pythagorean influence which means we’re dealing with a non-normative form of the God; in other Dionysiac cults, as with Greco-Roman religion generally, abortion/miscarriage tends to be overlooked.)

Unsurprisingly this is something that’s gone unnoticed and uncommented on by the majority of contemporary Dionysians, most of whom are left-leaning and take it for granted that Dionysos shares their liberal viewpoint. I generally don’t bring it up because I don’t want contemporary politics to get in the way of them having a rich and satisfying relationship with Dionysos. However reflecting on this has definitely shifted my views on the subject – to the point that I’m no longer in favor of abortion, though I don’t want to see restrictive laws imposed since I have an inherent mistrust of the government and history has shown that such legislation just makes a bad situation many, many times worse. I’d rather see effort put into education, moral and societal reform, access to contraception and the morning after pill as well as sterilization procedures, eliminating some of the bureaucracy and hoops around adoption and surrogacy, providing support and resources both during and after pregnancy, and whatever else it takes to make sure that every child born is wanted, loved, healthy and properly cared for as well as ensuring the health and wellbeing of the mother – not to mention a bunch of needs and services I’m not aware of because I’m a dude, and early on made the decision to remain child-free.

And I think everyone needs to step up to make this happen – the nuclear family is unnatural and ineffective. In any properly functioning society you’ve got the grandparents, and older children, a pack of aunties and uncles, friends and neighbors, etc. etc. etc. all willing to pitch in and help the young couple out. It truly does take a village to raise a child. But today everything is so atomized and disconnected it’s no wonder we’re producing Millennials and Gen Zers, with all of their defects, dysfunction, and degeneracy. It’s not their fault they are so entirely lacking in virtue and functionality – that’s a failure of society at large. No wonder millions of mothers would rather murder their babies than raise them in the world we have collectively created. We can do better.

And that’s my Ted Talk, folks.

And just to be clear: I think abortion is wrong, not the women who get them. I don’t consider it my place to pass judgment on an individual’s decisions about their body, especially when they find themselves in such a personal and desperate situation. My place is to help create a society where abortion isn’t considered necessary except in the case of medical emergencies. And that, I think, can only be done on the tribal level.

And I have no idea what Dionysos thinks on the subject, as it’s never come up. And if I did I wouldn’t mention it, because I believe that my arguments are morally correct, logically consistent, humane, and capable of standing on their own.

Rites of Bacchus

GM IV.1716-1870
Sword of Dardanos: Rite which is called “sword,” which has no equal because of its power, for it immediately bends and attracts the soul of whomever you wish. As you say the spell, also say: “I am bending to my will the soul of him NN.”

Take a magnetic stone which is breathing and engrave Aphrodite sitting astride Psyche and with her left hand holding on her hair bound in curls. And above her head: “ACHMAGE RARPEPSEI”; and below Aphrodite and Psyche engrave Eros standing on the vault of heaven, holding a blazing torch and burning Psyche. And below Eros these names: “ACHAPA ADONAIE BASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO E PHARPHAREI.” On the other side of the stone engrave Psyche and Eros embracing one another and beneath Eros’s feet these letters: “SSSSSSSS,” and beneath Psyche’s feet: “EEEEEEEE.” Use the stone, when it has been engraved and consecrated, like this: put it under your tongue and turn it to what you wish and say this spell:

“I call upon you, author of all creation who spread your own wings over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all things together by your power, firstborn, founder of the universe, golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you carry off every living thing without growing weary of torturing it, rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom men dare beyond what is fitting and take refuge in your light which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torch-carrier, master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine, dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name: AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing, night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA. Turn the ‘soul’ of her NN to me NN, so that she may love me, so that she may feel passion for me, so that she may give me what is in her power. Let her say to me what is in her soul because I have called upon your great name.”

And on a golden leaf inscribe this sword: “One THOURIEL MICHAEL GABRIEL OURIEL MISAEL IRRAEL ISTRAEL: May it be a propitious day for this name and for me who know it and am wearing it. I summon the immortal and infallible strength of God. Grant me the submission of every soul for which I have called upon you.” Give the leaf to a partridge to gulp down and kill it. Then pick it up and wear it around your neck after inserting into the strip the herb called “boy love.”

The burnt offering which endows Eros and the whole procedure with soul is this: manna, 4 drams; storax, 4 drams; opium, 4 drams; myrrh, [f drams;] frankincense, saffron bdella, one-half dram each. Mix in rich dried fig and blend everything in equal parts with fragrant wine, and use it for the performance. In the performance first make a burnt offering and use it in this way.


Not necessarily how I experience the God (usually somewhere between this and this, with differing flavors depending on the aspect) but that’s not exactly surprising, either. Insofar as I know what that state is like, the video gave me strong Thyiadic vibes, at least at the early stages. Granted, that’s not a path to Dionysos I’ve ever taken, nor do I suspect I can considering its strongly gendered nature. There is a corresponding male role, or rather one centered on erotic fire — though Thyiadism involves a lot more than just that, obviously. 

Everything is number

According to isopsephy (basically Greek gematria, a favorite practice of the Pythagorean Orphics) Dionysos’ allonym Βάκχος has the numerical value of 893 (which is the solution to my Riddle, in case you missed the acrostic.)

893 is a number with some interesting properties, especially when applied to the text of the Bible. For instance “wilderness” (Num 14:2; Exo 7:16), “transgressor” (Pro 21:18), αναγγέλω (“to call; announce” = Joh 16:25) as well as μεθυσκεσθε (“to make drunk” = Eph 5:18) all add up to 893. Also, I chose the verses carefully as these words crop up in a number of places. 

And the sum of the following verses (taken from here since I don’t do math) is also 893:

  • Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. (Gen 7:3)
  • And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. (Rut 3:8)
  • And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning. (Job 11:17)
  • And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. (Mar 14:22)
  • How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words) (Eph 3:3)

All very interesting and Dionysian, but I’m curious how 893 turns up in inspired texts such as Homer’s Iliás or Odússeia, the fragments of Empedokles and Herakleitos, the Orphika, and Nonnos’ Dionysiaká say. I chose “inspired” rather than “sacred” since only Empedokles and the Orphika would technically count, despite the depth and meaning to be found in the rest since it’s important to recognize the distinctions in this type of literature and evaluate them properly.

Of course, now that I’ve brought it to your attention you’re going to start seeing 893 (or 8/93) everywhere, in meaningful and meaningless ways. You’re welcome. Io evohe! Io io Bakchos! 

And I love that about him

There’s some really good conversation happening on my post calling out John Beckett and co.’s scaremongering. For instance this comment by yours truly:

While my values come from my religious tradition, and those values would inform my politics if I had any, I don’t comprehend the need to provide divine sanction for one’s political ideology and action. The Gods gave us intelligence to reason this shit out for ourselves; I don’t need Dionysos standing over my shoulder telling me what’s right and just or which lying, corrupt, corporate stooge to vote for. I’m less bothered by them ritualizing their political activity – whatever I may personally feel about their aims and efficacy -because we should, as Orpheus taught us, begin all things with the Gods. I just find it amusing – and presumptuous – when they take it that extra step and assume that the Gods are automatically on their side and think exactly the same way they do on every issue. There are plenty of things I do not agree with Dionysos on, usually because he does not share my pessimism and misanthropy. (And I love that about him.)

Join in!

To Dionysos Eleutherios

Hail to you Dionysos, freedom’s God
and beloved consort of richly-crowned Eirene
who brings sweet concord to the people
and whose grace is so desperately needed
at this time. Zeus’ pet eagle no longer sits
tamely at the side of the Heavenly Father,
symbol of justice and far-reaching equanimity,
but now is perched upon the shoulder of dread Enyo,
who has burst her brazen bonds and strides through many lands,
her dark shadow inciting men to madness, division and strife.
The eagle calls out for blood and vengeance, its shrill cry
echoed in that of weeping brides and fatherless sons,
speaking of dark days behind us, and darker days to come.
Wretchedness and woe may be upon numberless peoples,
foreign and domestic, but I cry with the Vínland Mainades
who cry, “Down from the Sacred Mountain have we come,
to the banks of the Potomac, and the shining marble
of the nation’s capital. Come out of your homes,
o sons and daughters of the patriots and revolutionaries
who through struggle and sacrifice kept the torch of hope
that serves as an inspiring beacon to the oppressed of the world burning,
dawn the star-spangled fawnskin and lift high the ivied wand,
and sing with us praises of Bromios, the beautiful and boisterous one
whose simple worship gladdens the heart.”
Sweet it is to lose yourself in the dance,
to feel the juice of the grape course through your body,
stirring your spirit until you toss back your head
and give the ecstatic cry Euoi! Euoi! Io Euoi!
Drunk on the God, we have no care
for burdensome possessions, and the foolish rantings
of angry kings and haughty potentates,
for with Dionysos we know ourselves to be free,
and have the Earth’s rich bounty as our inheritance.
Ie ie Bakcheios! Io io Bromios! Hail Eleutherios!

Sannion’s Guide for the Apocalypse

Druids aren’t the only people with cool hats. As Archiboukolos of the Starry Bull tradition I have one too.

According to John Beckett and co. there’s a great war, sorry — Great War in the Otherworlds and the “good guys” are 100% in support of his progressive politics and values while the forces of evil and uncreation are backing his ideological opponents, the Republicans and cultural conservatives more generally. 

How surprising.

A friend asked my thoughts on the subject and, well, I strongly suspect that if I shared them here I would be in violation of WordPress’ Terms of Service. 

Instead I’m going to take a point on which Beckett and I are in full agreement – we’re headed into some very uncertain times – and suggest some practical steps people can take to mitigate stress and suffering during them. 

Read Seneca and Plutarch. Build a network of family and friends you can rely on as things get tougher and start breaking down. Know and have good relations with your neighbors. Learn how to do things the old way; in other words, develop practical skills that are not dependent on modern technology. Learn the essentials of emergency medicine and keep a well-stocked kit. Garden, buy local, barter and trade, etc. as you’re able, as well as learn basic survival and prepper skills (i.e. foraging, hunting, how to cook and preserve food, how to fight and use various weapons, etc.) but without going completely overboard and letting fear and paranoia govern your life. Maintain your religious practices, especially those involving local land-spirits and the dead who can be potent allies, especially against malignant spirits. Perform regular cleansings, protections and psychic hygiene, whether you think you need such things or not. Listen to what your Gods and Spirits are telling you, even if it doesn’t make complete sense at the time. Trust that more than what the experts, influencers and other authority figures are trying to convince you of, especially if there’s a conflict between them. Keep an eye on the news, without obsessing over it so you have a sense of what’s going on locally and in the wider world. But minimize your exposure to social media and pop culture and be intentional, selective and critical when you do consume such content. And the rest – don’t worry about it unless it starts impacting your life. Then pray, make offerings, amp up your psychic defenses, divine frequently, and consult religious specialists and other respected authorities within your community to figure out how to proceed. Did I mention prayer and making offerings? You should do that, a lot. 

Anything you guys would add? 

Of course I think all of these are things that a mature, responsible adult should be doing whether the eschaton is imminent or not, but that’s just me. However if you do follow these simple prescriptions I guarantee that you’ll be ahead of the pack should the shit hit the fan.

And here’s the screed of the prophet Beckett, should you be so inclined to read it for yourself.  

To Dionysos Who Rises

Rise up, O Lord!

No longer suffer the inequities of this unrighteous tyrant
with mildness and restraint, but like boiling lava flowing down
the side of a mountain, come, come! Come mad and raving Dionysos,
to inflict terrible destruction upon this fool who would wage war
on a peaceful people, and lay the wretch low!

Rise up, O Lord!

As you rose up against Pentheus, who vainly sought to oppose
your worship in the very city of your birth. You enticed him
into insanity, and beneath a pine-tree his own mother
tore him to pieces.

Rise up, O Lord!

As you rose up against Lykourgos, who put your women to flight.
You blinded him, and made him think that his son was made of vines,
then opened his eyes that he might witness
the bloody spectacle he had wrought.

Rise up, O Lord!

As you rose up against the daughters of Minyas,
who shunned your sacred rites. You inflicted
such hunger upon them that they cast lots
to see which of their children they would boil in a pot.

Come, come night-roving Bakchos, terrible to look upon,
roaring like thunder, like a bull in frenzy, shake the Earth
to its core, and topple this arrogant bastard I pray!

Visit NYC, See the World

I’m back. All in all it was a very restful and productive break from the internet, even if I didn’t get any writing done or do as much ecstatic ritual as I would have liked. Which isn’t to say that there wasn’t any, just that I would have preferred that there be more — but life has a way of fucking your plans hard, and without lube, now doesn’t it? I did meet all of the other goals I set for myself, and spent a lot of time reflecting on certain matters I’ll be addressing later, and gained a measure of clarity on certain others which I won’t be addressing so there’s that, and it is good. My little staycation (wherein I didn’t see or communicate with another human being outside our household) culminated Saturday with a trip into the city to see Chinatown (Faye Dunaway was nowhere to be found) and Brighton Beach (aka “Malorussia”) which was fun and full of lots of surreal culture shock, especially visiting them back to back like that. My favorite parts (not counting food) was the ocean at night and all the shrines spilling over with incense and offerings for the Buddhas and the dead in so many shops and restaurants we passed. Normally I’m overwhelmed by the press of people (and all the history and predecessors who lived and died there before them, and who often still linger) as well as the pollution (spiritual as well as physical) which comes of living in any sizable city — but it was different in this neighborhood, ironically one of the most populace in all the boroughs. (I also didn’t have any trouble in the gourmet halal supermarket, which closes for a couple hours on Fridays for evening prayers, run by friendly immigrants from the -stans.) My biggest disappointment of the trip was that the Black Sea Bookstore was closed, possibly permanently. Although it only carried books in Russian and Ukrainian I was hoping against hope that I might find something there by Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov, which would have been a very potent kledon indeed. (That came via fortune cookies earlier in the day, thanks to Hermes Logios.) Also, fuck I forgot how much I adore this song

So what have y’all been up to?

Figured I’d leave y’all with some reading material before I depart

Speaking of bittersweet the House of Vines is going on hiatus, because I’m taking a break from the internet to spend the next week communing with my Gods and Spirits, writing, installing a new couch in the living room, doing drugs and performing ecstatic rites to revitalize myself and the land. I’m going to miss you guys, but this is long overdue. Feel free to email me during this time but don’t expect a response for a while, even after I come back. See you on the other side.

Venus in the ninth house

Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis 3.6.17
Constant attacks (assidua … interpellatione pulsari) by daemons are indicated by Venus in the ninth house by day. It creates natives who are squalid and stay in temples or roam about, and such as never cut their hair, and such as claim to announce to humanity pronouncements from the Gods, the sort that are often in temples and are accustomed to prophesy (vaticinari); often they are interpreters of dreams.

When it is deposited in a house, it protects it from all sorcery and the shades of daemons and empty dreams and blasts of lightning.

Damigeron, De lapidibus 7.1-14
The coral stone has the greatest powers in magical usage and in the achievement of serious undertakings. For it is hardy and repels all delusions of dreams by its remedy. It provides the greatest protection (tutamentum) against the wrath of masters when the name of Noctiluca (‘night-shiner’), that is the sign of Hecate, or the face of Gorgo is engraved in it.

The person carrying it is never harmed by any drug (medicamento) nor by lightning nor by a shade sent against them.

In war and in a fight, it is of the greatest assitance. And it will be invincible and efficacious and insuperable, without fear and without sadness, and makes the one holding it safe, easily able to accomplish what they will and gives easy access (to the powerful? into houses?). Furthermore, when it is first consecrated, then ground up, and sown together with corn or barley or any other crop, it keeps hail and all pernicious weather away from the earth. And strewn over vines or olives, it repels all destructive force of winds.

When it is deposited in a house, it protects it from all sorcery (maleficio) and the shades of daemons (umbris daemoniorum) and empty dreams and blasts of lightning.

If you have it with you on a ship, you will accomplish much more, because it resists winds and tempests and whirlwinds. So great is the power allotted to this stone as a remedy against adverse forces (partes).

This protective object (tutamentum) ought to be consecrated by a God and at holy places (sanctis locis), so that it has the greatest effect, day and night, at a dirnual or nocturnal hour. And the stone coral offers good protection (praesidium).

Her name means “sunlight, dawn”

A detail in both of these passages from Vegetius (1, 2) stood out for me:

argyritis (silver dross/litharge) stone, 1 ounce each

Which sounds an awful lot like Αυγέτρις, the companion of Dionysos Χοιροψάλας. Or maybe just to my ear. 

And therefore weakness which is induced by a pestilent wind is more easily cured by the salutory airflow of suffumigants.

Vegetius, Digesta artis mulomedicinae 3.12.1-4
This composition of suffumigants repels bewitchment/the evil eye (fascinum), purifies (lustrat) an animal, chases daemons away, and removes/keeps away diseases; for the fume and breath (spiritus) of the odor, when it enters through the mouth and nostrils, penetrates to all the recesses of the organs very often cures places which potions cannot cure. Likewise, a cough in humans is healed with the vapor of suffumigants above all. Furthermore, the authorities of veterinary medicine (mulomedicinae) assert that the most desperate and dangerous diseases derive, not from faults in the fodder or the water, but from the corruption of the air. And therefore weakness which is induced by a pestilent wind is more easily cured by the salutory airflow of suffumigants.
Their composition is as follows:

essentially the same recipe as above

These ingredients are all dried and mixed together; when the need arises, you take one spoonful of this mixture and strew it over ‘live’ coals, and you suffumigate the animal with its head uncovered, so that it receives the fume through the mouth and nostrils. This suffumigant not only heals the troubles of beasts of burden, it also repels oncoming human diseases and hail, it scares off daemons and puts shades to flight.

oppose with their odor the diseases of humans as much as of animals, and chases daemons away

Vegetius, Digesta artis mulomedicinae 1.20.1-3
There is also another composition of suffumigants (suffimentorum) for warding off diseases, but more expensive and, it is thought, more effective:
living sulphur, 1 pound (libra = 12 ounces)
Judaean bitumen, 1 pound
opopanax, 6 ounces
bearsfoot, 6 ounces
galbanum, 1 pound
Castoreum, half a pound
“crude air” (?), 6 ounces
(H)ammoniac salt, 2 ounces
Cappocian salt, 3 ounces
stag horn,—
“male” jet stone, —
“female” jet stone, 3 ounces each
haematite stone, 2 ounces,
magnet (sideritis) stone,—
argyritis (silver dross/litharge) stone, 1 ounce each
“sea-tails” (caudas marinas),—
sea snakes (ungues marinos), to the number of 7 each
“sea grapes” (uvae marinae), 3 ounces
deer marrow,—
cedar pitch,—
liquid pitch, 3 pounds (pondera) each
bones of ink-fish, to the number of 7
gold, half an ounce
a “pod”(?) of gold-dust
And these all when mixed together and burned oppose with their odor the diseases of humans as much as of animals, and chases daemons away; it is said that they keep away hail and purify the air. But if you cannot find the stones mentioned, or decide not to buy them because of the high cost, the rest of the ingredients will work well enough.