an inheritance for others

Long_horned_european_wild_ox

Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.

When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.

All writers have concealed more than they revealed.

The artist is the only one who knows that the world is a subjective creation, that there is a choice to be made, a selection of elements. It is a materialization, an incarnation of his inner world.

Then he hopes to attract others into it.

He hopes to impose his particular vision and share it with others. And when the second stage is not reached, the brave artist continues nevertheless. The few moments of communion with the world are worth the pain, for it is a world for others, an inheritance for others, a gift to others, in the end.

When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.

We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in a prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.

– February 1954 The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5

If you want to know more

 

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Floyd G. Ballentine, Some Phases of the Cult of the Nymphs
https://www.jstor.org/stable/310497?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

W. R. Connor, Seized by the Nymphs: Nympholepsy and Symbolic Expression in Classical Greece
https://forestdoor.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/connor1.pdf

Fátima Díez-Platas, Sex and the city: Silens and Nymphs in Ancient Greek pottery
https://www.academia.edu/10243283/_Sex_and_the_city_Silens_and_Nymphs_in_Ancient_Greek_pottery_

Rudolf Habelt, Kupara, a Sikel Nymph?
http://www.uni-koeln.de/phil-fak/ifa/zpe/downloads/1999/126pdf/126177.pdf

Theodora Suk Fong Jim, Seized by the Nymph
http://kernos.revues.org/2101

Jennifer Larson, The Corycian Nymphs and the Bee Maidens of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes
https://forestdoor.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/larson1.pdf

Bonnie MacLachlan, Kore as Nymph, not Daughter: Persephone in a Locrian Cave
http://www.stoa.org/diotima/essays/fc04/MacLachlan.html

Hugh Mason, Dancing Nymphs on Lesbos
https://www.academia.edu/11926891/Dancing_Nymphs_on_Lesbos

Hugh Mason, A Nymphaion in Mytilene
https://www.academia.edu/12677247/A_Nymphaion_in_Mytilene._Editing_and_Interpreting_IG_12.2.129

Verity Platt, Sight and the Gods: On the Desire to See Naked Nymphs
https://www.academia.edu/20415407/_Sight_and_the_Gods_On_the_Desire_to_See_Naked_Nymphs_in_M._Squire_ed._Sight_and_the_Ancient_Senses._The_Senses_in_Antiquity_Vol._4._Routledge_2016_169-87

Yulia Ustinova, Caves and the Ancient Greek Oracles
https://www.academia.edu/1072768/Caves_and_the_Ancient_Greek_Oracles

Begin where you are

Selections from Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood’s Persephone and Aphrodite at Locri: A Model for Personality Definitions in Greek Religion
The first determining factor is clearly the worshipping group and its specific realities and needs as they develop in the course of time. Deities are shaped by the societies that constitute the worshipping group and develop with them. A second factor to be taken into account is the pantheon to which they belong and the spheres of activity of its members. For a pantheon is an articulated religious system within which divine beings catering for the needs of the worshipping group are associated and differentiated; and this nexus of relationships contributes to the definition of each divine personality

The concepts ‘worshipping group’ and ‘pantheon’ bring us to an important aspect of Greek religion: the fact that the Greek deities existed at two levels-the local, polis level, and the Panhellenic level.

Too often, in the study of Greek divinities, the local personality of a deity is overshadowed by the Panhellenic one and the individuality of the different local deities is ignored. However, it is extremely unlikely that the establishment and crystallization of a Panhellenic persona for a deity so stamped out the local personalities that only insignificant variations remained. For the parameters affecting their definition differed in different cities, and again at the Panhellenic level. The realities and needs of the worshipping groups differed while some were common to all and also operated at the Panhellenic level. The composition and hierarchy of the pantheon also differed in the different cities, and again at the Panhellenic level. Moreover of the spheres in which a divine personality manifests itself that of cult would be especially resistent to change under the impact of Panhellenic religion; for cult operates primarily at the polis level, having a function within its structures

Hence the study of Greek divinities must not be based on the assumption that the divine personality of a deity was substantially the same throughout the Greek world. Consequently to avoid the danger of distortions we must study each local divine personality of a deity separately from the Panhellenic one, and not use evidence from the latter to determine the former. Instead, we must recover each local manifestation of the personality, and then relate it to the Panhellenic persona. Moreover, we must not extrapolate from one local cult to another and attempt to interpret an aspect found in one place through another found elsewhere. Nor should we conflate evidence from different parts of the Greek world. The result would be a totally artificial conflation that had no cultic or theological reality. The fact that a given function is, for example, associated with Aphrodite at Sparta only means that this function belongs to her in the context of a particular personality nexus. It is not necessarily found in all, or indeed any, of her other personality nexuses which, I have argued above, had a different profile. Nor is it an inalienable part of an integral complex which included all the aspects of Aphrodite from the whole of the Greek world, and which would be ‘the’ Aphrodite. For divinities only existed at two different levels of cultic reality: local and Panhellenic. No aspect of a deity has any significance when separated from its organic context. Tendencies and aspects common to a deity throughout the Greek world have to be recovered and tested, not assumed or extrapolated.

To sum up, the study of Greek divine personalities should be based on specific local religious units and rely on internal evidence alone. The Panhellenically consistent traits would then be recovered and tested. It should be clear that this method based on the study of local cults is valid whether or not my initial analysis is correct. For it is a neutral approach that does not introduce any preconceived distortions. Moreover, it allows a circumscribed investigation of the circumstances of the worshipping group, necessary for the study of the development of any one deity, and of the other deities of the pantheon to whom it related.

Nymphai

Leaving aside the whole issue of how modern man tends to be disconnected from his environment and oblivious to its life-cycles – including far too many pagans and polytheists, if you ask me – the biggest stumbling-block to having an awareness of Nymphs, let alone cultivating a relationship with them, has got to be our preconceived notions about what Nymphs are like.

I’ll be honest – this is something I had to get over as well. Like a lot of people I originally assumed that Nymphs were these lovely, slim-ankled maidens being chased by lusty Satyrs through the woods or darkly seductive ingénues who waited at the bottom of lakes for dim-witted but handsome shepherds to come by so that they could lure them down to a premature watery death. After all, that’s how poets and painters have presented them for centuries. And yes, sometimes that’s even how they’ll reveal themselves to a person – though it isn’t the only or even the most common way that they appear.

Usually it’s much more subtle than that. A rustling of leaves or sudden motion caught out of the corner of your eye; the faint echo of footfalls, whispered voices or sounds that could be distant music; light playing on the surface of the water or a pile of leaves; a strong scent filling your nostrils. Sometimes you’ll have a kinesthetic response: the hair rises on your body, you feel a phantom touch on your arm or cheek or you get a tingling sensation at your scalp or the back of your neck. Sometimes there is nothing more definite than an overwhelming and undeniable sense of presence. You are suddenly aware that you are not alone, that something somewhere nearby is watching you, that it has a personality and that personality is very different from your own.

Of course this is not the only way that they reveal themselves to us. I’ve gotten to the point where I can recognize particular spirits distinct from all the rest; I have communicated with some directly and had visionary experiences of them as well; and they have even shown me forms that resemble our own. But they aren’t human and we should always keep that in mind when dealing with them. They are strange and wild creatures who have their own peculiar morality. In fact, they can be very dangerous at times, even for those whom they like. Their mood changes swiftly and unpredictably – after I have done what I came for I am always quick to leave their dwelling. You cannot domesticate a Nymph: wildness is a fundamental part of their being.

That’s why if you want to know them you’ve got to go to the wild places. You must approach them on their terms. You cannot learn about them in safety, skimming through old books or listening to what other people tell you about them. Such tools can be a fine way to start the journey but they’ll only take you so far. Eventually you have to put all that aside and plunge headlong into the wild – for that is where they are found. Before you can meet them you have to meet the places where they live.

Unfortunately we city-dwellers are often uncomfortable in such wild places. The stillness of the forest is uncanny. We are used to the roar of cars, the cacophony of voices, music and advertizing, the monotonous blur of concrete, glass, and billboards rushing by us. But in the wild everything seems so much quieter, slower. The stillness can be strange at first – and uncomfortable as there is now no background noise to blot out the thoughts racing through your head except for the occasional birdcall or rustling of the leaves. But look a little closer. There is a whole other world beneath the surface.

Look at the trees all around you. No, really look. Don’t just see them as an undifferentiated mass of green and brown – but seek out the particulars. The thousand separate shades of green, the infinite variation of individual leaves and stunning moss patterns, the grass and flowers and mulch that gives sustenance to the forest. Look at the spiders hanging in the branches, the insects crawling over a leaf, the birds singing in the distance: a whole world of which you are not normally aware and yet are still an integral part of. Kneel down. Feel the mud and damp soil beneath your fingers. Really feel it. Yes, it is dirty and gross – but this is the source of life. Pick up a rock and notice its heft in your fingers. Is it rough and jagged or has it been worn smooth? What color is it? Not brown or grey – that’s what your eye sees when it’s not really looking – but what sort of veins and shading does it have, what patterns have the dirt-smudges formed, can you make out the flecks of red and blue that are only visible when you tilt it towards the sun? Now stand up and take a deep breath. What do you smell and taste on the air? The soil, the decomposing leaves, the moss, the dampness. What else? What else?

Spend as long as you can in the wild place, really experiencing everything about it that you are able to. Let the sensation of it wash over you, fill you, awaken the spirit within you. Let the awareness of its numinous power and beauty come to you as it will: in its own time, in its own way. Don’t try to force it. Don’t let your expectations distract you. Be present, be aware, and if you’re not getting it, just give it more time. It’ll happen. Maybe not the way you were thinking it would. Maybe something else, something small and inconsequential stands out for you and not some majestic vision of Mother Nature’s awesomeness … that’s okay. Go with it. See where it leads. See what this wild place has to show you in particular.

And once you are able to recognize that you will have begun developing the faculties that allow you to perceive the Nymphs who are the spirits that animate the place. And once you’re able to see them, well, that’s when things start to get really interesting! But I’ll leave that for another time, and instead close with one of my favorite passages from antiquity, a letter written by the great Stoic philosopher Seneca:

If you have ever come on a dense wood of ancient trees that have risen to an exceptional height, shutting out all sight of the sky with one thick screen of branches upon another, the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot, your sense of wonderment at finding so deep and unbroken a gloom out of doors will persuade you of the presence of a deity. Any cave in which the rocks have been eroded deep into the mountain resting on it, its hollowing out into a cavern of impressive extent not produced by the labours of men but the result of the processes of nature, will strike into your soul some kind of inkling of the divine. We venerate the source of important streams; places where a mighty river bursts suddenly from hiding are provided with altars; hot springs are objects of worship; the darkness or unfathomable depth of pools has made their waters sacred.

But wine is still the superior beverage. Obviously. 

BacchusBottles

Look, I didn’t mean to “drink shame” anyone. I like beer just fine; hell, back in Eugene where my neighborhood alone had four professional microbreweries beer was my primary form of liquid intoxicant. I also used it sacramentally to connect with the local face of Dionysos. Polytheism is flexible like that, plus when I drank I was literally taking in earth, sun, air and water of the place where I lived, since all the ingredients were sourced from nearby farms, etc. So, in summation: beer good.

It’s just …

Y’all think I’m crazy for wanting to get away from this decaying modernity and live a slower, more hands on, more interconnected, more traditional and pious life with a bunch of gun-toting, monarchist, polytheist homesteaders. 

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And yet I just watched Senators of these great United States questioning a Supreme Court nominee (now appointee) on 70’s yearbook slang for farting and puking, coded allusions to ménages à trois or if he had memory problems from getting black-out drunk so often. The nominee made angry, pouty faces, cried a lot and gushed nostalgically about his daddy’s old desk calendars, beer, working out with his buds in the garage, and beer. Then the Senators got chased into their elevators by a bunch of screeching, sign-waving, rainbow-haired, over-educated Starbucks baristas. (Who are all secretly being paid by George Soros. Or Putin. Depending on which Youtubes you watch.)

pepe

Yeah, I’m the crazy one.

Don’t act like a Celt; drink wine.

Although the esteemed Emperor Julian would not have approved of the antics of the leftist ὄχλος on display during the recent hearings, I think Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s own testimony would have been enough to raise grave concerns about his fitness to serve on the Supreme Court:

Julian, you see, like all proper Romans (and, indeed, all decent human beings) preferred wine to beer. He even wrote a poem about it:

εἰς οἶνον ἀπὸ κριθῆς.
τίς πόθεν εἶς Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
οὔ σ’ἐπιγιγνώσκω. τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε. σύ δὲ τράγον. ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
τῇ πενίῃ Βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ’ ἀσταχύων;
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,
πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.

For an English translation and commentary, please click here

Strange Spirits in a strange land

You remember that poem from almost 200 years ago I mentioned in the last post – Adam Oehlenschläger’s Om Vanerne, which posits that Óðr is Dionysos; well, I just noticed it contains some rather on point allusions to the Toys.

Sphaira (Ball)
“Swift as light—o’er horse-neck pendent—
Past, e’er yet well seen from far—
Beams resplendent
On his helm the morning star.”

Astragaloi (Knucklebones)
“Dancing, sought to soothe his pain,
With feet cloven,
Satyrs sang and piped in vain.”

Trochos (Wheel)
“Piled on high, in osier waggons,
Choicest wine with care he stores.”

Rhombos (Bullroarer)
“Wondering at th’ unwonted clamour,
Rugged men start from the glade,
Trembling, gazing, leaping, shouting,
Half enraptured, half afraid.”

Strobilos (Whipping Top)
“Hermod through the leaves stole on him,
on his head the Rune-stock laid.”

Krotala (Castanet)
“Maids with timbrels dance before”

Paignia Kampesiguia (Doll)
“Thus, long since, the poet found him,
Changed into a senseless stone.”

Pokos (Wool)
“Bow’d to earth—his aching forehead
’Twixt his burning palms he prest,
Visions horrid
Rack’d his brain, sobs rent his breast.”

Mela (Golden Apples)
“Idun, stol’n by false Loke’s treason,
Long Valhalla’s gods had wept,
And old age, with withering wrinkles,
O’er each late full cheek had crept.”

Esoptron (Mirror)
“Oddur calm’d their groundless terror,
Charm’d them with his magic lay,
Held his mirror,
Shew’d to peace and wealth the way.”

Pretty neat, huh?