Be well and worship the Gods 

I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now which doesn’t leave much time or energy for producing original content so I’m putting The House of Vines on temporary hiatus. Catch ya on the flip side. Be well and worship the Gods. 

Amazonomachia

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From what does the place Panhaema on the island of Samos derive its name? Is it because the Amazons sailed from the country of the Ephesians across to Samos when they were endeavouring to escape from Dionysos? But he built boats and crossed over and, joining battle, slew many of them near this place, which the spectators in amazement called Panhaema [‘Allblood.’] because of the vast quantity of blood shed there. (Plutarch, Greek Questions 56)

Pindar, however, it seems to me, did not learn everything about the Goddess, for he says that this sanctuary was founded by the Amazons during their campaign against Athens and Theseus. It is a fact that the women from the Thermodon, as they knew the sanctuary from of old, sacrificed to the Ephesian Goddess both on this occasion and when they had fled from Heracles; some of them earlier still, when they had fled from Dionysos, having come to the sanctuary as suppliants. However, it was not by the Amazons that the sanctuary was founded, but by Koresos, an aboriginal, and Ephesos, who is thought to have been a son of the river Kayster, and from Ephesos the city received its name. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.2.7)

As for Kronos, the myth relates, after his victory he ruled harshly over these regions which had formerly been Ammon’s, and set out with a great force against Nysa and Dionysos. Now Dionysos, on learning both of the reverses suffered by his father and of the uprising of the Titans against himself, gathered soldiers from Nysa, two hundred of whom were foster-brothers of his and were distinguished for their courage and their loyalty to him; and to these he added from neighbouring peoples both the Libyans and the Amazons, regarding the latter of whom we have already observed that it is reputed that they were distinguished for their courage and first of all campaigned beyond the borders of their country and subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world. These women, they say, were urged on to the alliance especially by Athena, because their zeal for their ideal of life was like her own, seeing that the Amazons clung tenaciously to manly courage and virginity. The force was divided into two parts, the men having Dionysos as their general and the women being under the command of Athena, and coming with their army upon the Titans they joined battle. The struggle having proved sharp and many having fallen on both sides, Kronos finally was wounded and victory lay with Dionysos, who had distinguished himself in the battle. Thereupon the Titans fled to the regions which had once been possessed by Ammon, and Dionysos gathered up a multitude of captives and returned to Nysa. Here, drawing up his force in arms about the prisoners, he brought a formal accusation against the Titans and gave them every reason to suspect that he was going to execute the captives. But when he got them free from the charges and allowed them to make their choice either to join him in his campaign or to go scot free, they all chose to join him, and because their lives had been spared contrary to their expectation they venerated him like a God. Dionysos, then, taking the captives singly and giving them a libation (spondê) of wine, required of all of them an oath that they would join in the campaign without treachery and fight manfully until death; consequently, these captives being the first to be designated as “freed under a truce” (hypospondoi), men of later times, imitating the ceremony which had been performed at that time, speak of the truces in wars as spondai. (Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 3.71)

Bright glory of the sky, come hither to the prayers which thine own illustrious Thebes, O Bacchus, offers to thee with suppliant hands. Hither turn with favour thy virginal face; with thy star-bright countenance drive away the clouds, the grim threats of Erebus, and greedy fate. Thee it becomes to circle thy locks with flowers of the springtime, thee to cover thy head with Tyrian turban, or thy smooth brow to wreathe with the ivy’s clustering berries; now to fling loose thy lawless-streaming locks, again to bind them in a knot close-drawn; in such guise as when, fearing thy stepdame’s wrath, thou didst grow to manhood with false-seeming limbs, a pretended maiden with golden ringlets, with saffron girdle binding thy garments. So thereafter this soft vesture has pleased thee, folds loose hanging and the long-trailing mantle. Seated in thy golden chariot, thy lions with long trappings covered, all the vast coast of the Orient saw thee, both he who drinks of the Ganges and whoever breaks the ice of snowy Araxes. On an unseemly ass old Silenus attends thee, his swollen temples bound with ivy garlands; while thy wanton initiates lead the mystic revels. (Seneca, Oedipus 405-430)

On its rich stream has Lydian Pactolus borne thee, leading along its burning banks the golden waters; the Massgetan who mingles blood with milk in his goblets has unstrung his vanquished bow and given up his Getan arrows; the realms of axe-wielding Lycurgus have felt the dominion of Bacchus; the fierce lands of the Zalaces have felt it, and those wandering tribes whom neighbouring Boreas smites, and the nations which Maeotis’ cold water washes, and they on whom the Arcadian constellation looks down from the zenith and the wagons twain. He has subdued the scattered Gelonians; he has wrested their arms from the warrior maidens; with downcast face they fell to earth, those Thermodontian hordes, gave up at length their light arrows, and became maenads. Sacred Cithaeron has flowed with the blood of Ophionian slaughter; the Proetides fled to the woods, and Argos, in his stepdame’s very presence, paid homage to Bacchus. (Seneca, Oedipus 467-486)

Another important piece of American history they don’t teach in the schools

The chapter from Gordon Rattray Taylor’s book I cited in a new expletive goes on to mention Father Divine. Man, that stirs up the memories. 

Back when I used to hang out in the AOL chat rooms I had this friend who was into a mix of Hoodoo, Alchemy and Celtic reconstructionism. One of the spirits that he worked with was Father Divine.

Not a lot of folks were doing hero cultus back then, and if they were it was usually for a handful of popular figures from antiquity as opposed to the more recently deceased, so this element of his practice stood out for me. We had a lot of interesting conversations which inspired some of my own first forays into hero cultus.

He ended up dropping the Celtic and magical components and became a Christian spiritist at which point we lost touch, and now it’s been close to two decades since those conversations transpired. I’ve thought about him periodically over the years, wondering if he kept up his veneration of Father Divine and if the winding way of his life ever led back to the Gods.

Father Divine was quite the character, as you can see in this brief documentary:

And here’s a video made during the early days of his mission:

Another important piece of American history they don’t teach in the schools.

some tips on how to celebrate Agrionia alone

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Agrionia, the festival of savagery, is coming up on 28 Kantharos (or May 20th, by the common reckoning.)

With the quarantine still in place throughout much of the country most of us aren’t going to be able to get together with our local thiasos and experience the violent collective frenzy and catharsis of this day.

But there’s still plenty that we can do.

In addition to the suggestions we’ve already provided at the Bakcheion here are some tips on how to celebrate Agrionia alone. 

1) Make offerings to Orpheus, Medeia and Melampous.

2) Go out for a wild, rambling walk. Dance. Do drugs. Dress and act transgressively. And otherwise scale back normal Agrionia observances.

3) Isolate the shit that’s suppressed, toxic and holding you back internally and in your life, then bring it to the surface and ritually tear it apart.

4) Make a baby-shaped piñata, fill it with red-dyed corn syrup, and smash it to pieces.

5) Eat veal.

6) Reflect on the oppositions and polarities in Dionysos, and within yourself. Find a way to ritually or creatively express this.

7) Watch gory horror movies.

8) Research some aspect of the festival and make art inspired by it.

9) Chase random strangers through the streets with a sword. 

a new expletive

Hey guys, I have a new expletive – Saint Fuck! 

He’s one of the Phallic Saints of the Catholic Church.

Specifically Saint Foutin, the former Pothin or Pothinus, first bishop of Lyon. Over time the pronunciation of his name shifted and through folk etymology became linked to the verb foutre (“to fuck”). 

Regarding these Phallic Saints Gordon Rattray Taylor writes in Sex In History:

The statues of these saints were usually equipped with large phalli: when the Protestants took Embrun in 1585, they found the people worshipping the phallus of St. Foutin and pouring wine on it, whence his sobriquet, le saint vinaigre. Women wishing to conceive would make use of the phallus in the same way that Roman wives would, before entering the marriage bed, make use of the wooden phallus of Mutunus Tutunus. A large wooden phallus covered with leather was found in 1562 when the Protestants destroyed the church at Orange, which was doubtless used for similar purposes. 

It is easy to fall into the error of thinking of all these ceremonies as having been simply quaint survivals, as we should now regard them today. But it cannot be doubted that they were perfectly real and extremely important at the time. Only if we accept the fact that there was a persistent conviction that phallic religion was the true religion, and that, in the last resort, the phallic deities were more powerful and more beneficent than the upstart Christian god, can we understand such things as the belief that one could avoid the plague by committing incest on the altar: for this was evidently an act which asserted in the strongest imaginable form one’s adherence to phallicism and mother worship, and at the same time one’s contempt for the cruel father-deity who had sent the plague.

Phallic practices continued long after the end of the Middle Ages. In 1786, the British Minister in Naples wrote to the president of the Royal Society explaining how, in a little explored part of Isernia, he had found the peasants worshipping “the great toe of St. Cosmo” (i.e. the phallus) with appropriate rites. During the three-day feast, peasants, chiefly women, would present waxen ex votos, kissing them before giving them to the priest and saying “Santo Cosimo benedetto, cosi lo voglio” (Blessed St. Cosmo, that’s how I want it to be). Men would present their afflicted members to the priest to be anointed with oil, and 1,400 flasks of oil were consumed every year for this purpose.

There was also Saint Guignolé (Winwaloe), first Abbot of Landévennec, who acquired his priapic status by confusion of his name with gignere (Fr. engendrer, “to beget.”) Though immensely popular with the people, his shrine was destroyed in 1793.

Here’s a picture of his statue from the chapel of Prigny in Loire-Atlantique:

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Local girls would pierce Saint Guignolé’s feet, believing that this ceremony would help them find their soul-mate. 

Which reminds me of the squilling of Pan:

Theocritus, a native of Syracuse, preserved local traditions in his writings and recorded the oldest known reference to squilling in the third century BCE. “This do, sweet Pan, and never, when slices be too few/ May the leeks of the lads of Arcady beat thee black and blue.” (VIII 106-109) If the kill was small, or worse yet, the hunters returned empty handed, the young men of the village would ceremonially circle around a statue of Pan and use large bulbous onions attached to their stalks, “squills,” to whip Pan around the shoulders and genital area. 

When considered out of context, whipping one’s God into helping seems a crude and bizarre rite. However, it gave the young hunters an outlet for their fears and anxieties, reminded them of their society’s understanding that sustenance and life itself are gifts of the Gods, and aligned them as the sons of Pan who, like them, was a hunter and so must be invulnerable to pain, hardship and loneliness. “Wilhelm Mannhardt put forth the theory that the scapegoat is ‘originally’ the vegetation spirit, who must be whipped, chased, and even killed in order to be invigorated, to be born afresh.” (Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual p. 68) Whipping was understood to stimulate life-giving power when performed with fertilizing boughs, as are those of the squill. Lewis Richard Farnell writes: “The object of this discipline was not punishment and insult, but stimulative magic whereby the life-giving power of the deity might be restored.” (Sukey Fontelieu, The Archetypal Pan in America: Hypermasculinity and Terror)

There were many others as well, such as St. Guerlichon, or Greluchon, at Bourg Dieu — whose name has become a synonym for prostitute; St. Gilles at Cotentin; St. Rene in Anjou (by a confusion with reins, kidneys — the supposed seat of sexual power) and so forth.

So hail Saint Fuck, and may the blessings of fertility and renewal be yours!