No veil now covers the curls on my delicate cheek, nor in maiden shame have I hidden the blush on my face, I come as a Bacchant, celebrating death. I have thrown the veil from my hair, my saffron robe hangs loose. I bring on the dead with my groans. (Euripides, The Phoenician Women)
I just saw A Mata Negra (The Black Forest) by Brazilian director Rodrigo Aragão, which IMDB describes as follows:
In this mystical horror tale, a young woman uncovers the Lost Book of Cipriano, an ancient tome with power for both wealth… and pure evil.
The first hour or so was beautiful and creepy and genuinely suspenseful. It reminded me of the magical realism of Luis Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Álex de la Iglesia and Guillermo del Toro, with every frame a work of art. Then it kind of goes off the rails with the main character’s increasingly poor choices making it difficult to root for her. But it never becomes unwatchable, especially after the naked chicken demon is introduced. The film also teaches a very valuable lesson about commitment and not half-assing it.
Here’s the trailer:
This image by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme really conveys something of the Black Sun experience:
As does this video by Sigur Rós:
And I’m hardly the only one to suggest a connection between Dionysos and the Black Sun. There’s also this dude:
Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov. Also not a Nazi.
He wrote in The Vineyard Of Dionysus:
Dionysus walks his vineyard, his beloved;
Two women in dark clothing – two vintagers – follow him.
Dionysus tells the two mournful guards – the vintagers:
“Take your sharp knife, my vintners, Grief and Torment;
Harvest, Grief and Torment, my beloved grapes!
Gather the blood of scarlet bunches, the tears of my golden clusters –
Take the victim of bliss to the whetstone of grief,
The purple of suffering to the whetstone of bliss;
Pour the fervent liquid of scarlet delights into my ardent Grail!”
For Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov Dionysos was more than just a poetic trope. In Dancing Maenads in Early 20th-Century Britain Fiona Macintosh remarks:
In Germany and Russia there were followers of Dionysus, who shunned the modern world altogether and lived in quasi-Bacchic settings and practiced Dionysian rituals.*
* Blom (2008), 200-2. In Russia, for example, Vyacheslav Ivanov (1866-1949), classical scholar and author of The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God (1904), lived in ‘The Tower’ believing he was Dionysus from 1905 onwards. In Germany there were numerous bearded and naturist followers of Dionysus, including the young Herman Hesse.
He was quite the interesting fellow, according to James H. Billington:
‘Viacheslav the Magnificent’ was the crown prince and chef de salon of the new society, which met in his seventh floor apartment ‘The Tower,’ overlooking the gardens of the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg. Walls and partitions were torn down to accommodate the increasing numbers of talented and disputatious people who flocked to the Wednesday soirees, which were rarely in full swing until after supper had been served at 2 A.M.
Acclaimed poet Maria Skobtsova recalled the symposiastic paradise created by Ivanov decades later, as a White émigré in Paris:
We lived in the middle of a vast country as if on an uninhabited island. Russia was illiterate, whereas in our milieu was concentrated all the culture of the world: the Greeks were quoted by heart, we welcomed the French symbolists, we thought of Scandinavian literature as our own, we were familiar with the philosophy, theology, poetry and history of the whole wide world, in this sense we were citizens of the universe, the keepers of mankind’s cultural museum. This was Rome in the time of its decline… We played out the last act of the tragedy concerned with the rift between the intelligentsia and the people. Beyond us stretched out the Russian Empire’s snowy desert, a country in fetters: it was as ignorant of our delights as of our anguish, while its own delights and anguish had no effect on us.
Jesús Ángel Espinós writes in The realm of Hades and its symbols in Mandel’štam’s Tristia: a transparent path to redemption:
So, through the mediation of bees and their honey Persephone softens her gloomy character and takes on a new redeemer aspect through which the bees, probably a metaphor of the souls of the dead, transmute their honey into sun, and consequently transcend their earthly existence, as can be observed in the final verses of poem I, 208:
Take for joy my wild gift,
A homely and dry necklace
Of dead bees who transformed
honey into sun.
The last word of the poem, “sun”, inserts itself into a fundamental network where metaphors pertaining to “black sun” and to “night sun” claim attention. In both epithets it has been observed as an Orphic influence that refers to Dionysus Nyktelios, the “Dionysus of the night sun”. Broadly speaking, the imagery of both suns, particularly that of the “night sun”, has to be related to Vjačeslav Ivanov, classical philologist and erudite Symbolist poet, who exerted a great sway on Mandel’štam, especially in his youthful years. Ivanov employs the image of “night sun” in several works such as in the articles ‘Мысли о символизме’ (‘Thoughts about Symbolism’), ‘Орфей’ (‘Orpheus’), in the essay ‘Взгляд Скрябина на искусство’ (‘Skrjabin’s View of Art’), and in the poems ‘Ночное солнце’ (‘Night Sun’) and ‘Сердце Диониса’ (‘Dionysus’ Heart’) among others. Orphic rituals enable us to expiate the guilt inherited from the Titans, and consequently avoid the pu-nishments of afterlife and the cycle of reincarnations. In addition, Plutarch suggests that there must have been a work dedicated to Dionysus Nyktelios, which probably described the mourning for the god’s death and the orgiastic rites in honor of his rebirth. Nevertheless, in spite of Plutarch’s witness, the existence of such a work, perhaps an epic poem called Νυκτέλια, cannot be proved. In this hypothetical poem the initiates would be instructed in the symbolic meaning of the night, which should be explained by the opposition night/day, shadow/light, an opposition that can be observed in the Mandel’štamian oxymora “night sun”, and to a lesser extent “black sun”. On the other hand, this interrelation of opposite qualities can be traced back to Ivanov, who closes his poem ‘Ночное солнце’ (‘ Night Sun’) with the following command: “В полночь зови незакатный свет!” (“At midnight call the never setting light!”; v. 7). In sum, from this point of view, the Orphic sun of poem I, 208 (v. 15), created by the honey of dead bees, should be understood as a sun of salvation that, under the appearance of a Dionysus reborn, would set us free from the continuous and numerous gloomy metaphors that dot Mandel’štam’s Tristia. On the other hand, the bees were a symbol of poetic talent in classical Antiquity as must be inferred from the recurrent scene of bees that perch on the lips of future poets when they are still in the cradle or that, in the case of the young Pindar, even build a honeycomb on his lips according to Pausanias (Description of Greece IX, 23, 2), or feed him with honey as Philostratus (Images II, 12, 2, 4) states. So, I might venture that the bees, by means of their poetic force, defy death, which is the same as saying that poetry, incarnated in the honey, reveals itself as immortal.
Regarding this imagery, Terras remarks: “We know that precisely at the time of Mandelstam’s intensive contact with Ivanov, the latter was lecturing on Novalis and translating his poetry and, in particular, his Hymnen an die Nacht. In the very first of these hymns we find a ‘liebliche Sonne der Nacht,’ translated as Mne solntsem ty polunochnym siiaesh’, ‘You shine for me as a midnight sun’ […]. The not inconsiderable role played by Novalis in Mandelstam’s thought […] is surely due to Ivanov’s mediation.” (The Black Sun: Orphic Imagery in the Poetry of Osip Mandelstam. SEEJ, 45, No. 1, 45-60.)
It kind of amuses me that they’re making such a big deal about the whole Black Sun thing now. I mean, I’ve used the pics in a bunch of posts, and written quite extensively on the subject. If I thought this was something shameful and to be kept secret I’m doing rather a shitty job of it, don’t you think?
Here’s some real ammunition, folks, rather than gossip and insinuation to go by.
Read and judge for yourself.
- The Mystery of the Midnight Sun
- The Story
- Tangled Windings
- Waves of Madness
- Carried Away
- On Oschophoria
- On Lampteria
- Dionysos may be the reason for the season, but don’t blame Christmas on him!
- Chthonic Dionysos and the Saints of the True Vine
- On Dionysos Eubouleus
That’s why I use the symbol. That’s what it means to me. Not Nazism.
And of course folks are free to disagree with my interpretation and usage and disassociate or push back however they please. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong and stupid.
Though your argument that Scarlet Magdalene gets to decide what’s antisemitic because she’s Jewish, well, that’s just bullshit. And disappointing, because I’ve come to expect better of you.
I mean, I asked five Jews and they all said it was cool. Granted five isn’t a minyan, but it’s bigger than one. If we’re going by your metric, shouldn’t that carry more weight?
And unlike a certain someone these were observant Jews, albeit like her at least three of them had broken the Mosaic commandment against having other Gods. One is also an adulterer, but I respect his opinion on religious and magical matters because people are complex and complicated. Just because you know one fact about someone doesn’t mean you know anything about who they are or what their life and world are like.
I just question your timing and tenacity and dishonesty.
Why, it’s almost like you’re trying to smokescreen folks.
The responses to my explanation for why I use the Sonnenrad have been rather interesting. There has been concern that I’m trying to force others to use it, tirades about UPG and going beyond the sources, worry about blindly accepting whatever a God happens to tell us, theoreticals about all the horrible things a God might command one to do, whether it’s even possible for the Gods to act contrary to the good, etc.
I really wonder how many of these people even bothered to read my explanation before weighing in. If you need a refresher, here you go:
This image was given to me in a dream by Dionysos. Initially I was uncomfortable with that since I was aware of its Nazi associations. But it kept showing up in visions and meditations over the course of a couple months. And then the God showed me what it means, how it’s one of the symbols of his mysteries and more importantly what can be done with it. And that’s all I needed. I will never stop wearing it, talking about it, or using it.
The first thing you’ll notice is that at no point was there discussion about other people using this symbol or not. Not in the account, and not in any of the subsequent posts I’ve made. Not only have I not encouraged others to adopt it, I haven’t attempted to argue anyone down from their positions.
Look, I get it. Nazis bad. Anything they touched is going to be forever stained for you. Not only can’t these symbols ever be redeemed, but anyone who uses them is a jerk or worse, and you want to stay as far away from that as possible.
You can stop reading now.
I’m not going to try to convince you of anything, but I’m also not going to engage with your kneejerk arguments because they aren’t based in anything other than emotion. May you lead a happy and fulfilled life – preferably as far away from me and mine as possible.
Now on to the theological points.
I didn’t take on the Sonnenrad because Dionysos told me to. There was no blind acceptance of anything, no threats or compulsion.
It began simply with a dream in which I was given the symbol. He didn’t explain anything, including why he wanted me to have it. We were just hanging out in the Labyrinth talking and suddenly he extended his hand and there was a black disc with moving tendrils resembling Sig-runes around the circumference. I held it in my hands and felt this vibrating power that made me kind of dizzy and the next thing I knew I was awake.
I felt disoriented, but got up and went to my lap-top to confirm that he had indeed given me what I thought he had. I spent a half hour or so checking out a smattering of sites, most of which repeated the same bare bones information. I said, “Hmm, that’s weird. Wonder if it means anything.” And then I went back to bed.
A couple days later my mind returned to the symbol. It made me really uncomfortable because of its Nazi associations. Why had he given it to me? What did he intend for me to do with it? How did I personally feel about it, for that matter.
Mostly it made me uncomfortable. It’s not just that I don’t like Nazis and anything associated with them was tainted – but as someone who had already gotten plenty of flak for my conservative and Right-leaning views, well, adopting this symbol would have some pretty severe ramifications. To the point that it could destroy all of my community-building efforts which I had undertaken expressly for him.
So I filed it away in the back of my mind, and went about organizing the Polytheist Leadership Conference. And for the next six months or so, that was that. There were no further dreams, no whispered messages or visions, I was swamped with work both during the Conference and in its immediate aftermath, and I got involved in some esoteric work involving next level stuff with the Toys, opening up the Green Way thread of the tradition, working more closely with Orpheus, Medeia and Melampous, and generally growing the Starry Bull community with close to a dozen initiates made over the next couple years.
Then the Sonnenrad started showing up more and more for me. People would mention it in books and articles I was reading, it’d pop up in videos and movies, I began seeing it in dreams and visions, it filtered subconsciously into my writing and then David Bowie released his final album ★ and went to join the heroes. At this point I felt I needed to understand the symbol and its occult significance better so I hit the books. Most writings were either full of incomprehensible jargon, or veered off into crazy land often with heaping helpings of delusional racism, antisemitism and messianiac Hitlerism. The alchemical literature proved more useful – and overlapped significantly with what I had been calling the Bull-Wolf ritual combat strain of the tradition – but a lot of it was also unproductive or way over my head, since my knowledge of the subject is fairly minimal. Nevertheless I was able to piece together some significant stuff from these disparate sources but also felt that I had taken things as far as I could through the research route.
So I went back and prayed for Dionysos to send me another dream, perhaps one with a little more clarity. And I got zilch. Nada. Nothingburger. A couple weeks straight of prayer, bedtime ritual, entheogens, etc. netted the same results. So I figured that was that, and it would remain a closed mystery to me. I’ve encountered plenty of other strains within the Starry Bull that were like that, so it didn’t surprise me overmuch.
Then, as I prepared to take another class through the Toys course the Sonnenrad started aggressively showing up again – not just via the exercises, but whenever I’d meditate and occasionally in dreams too. I begged Dionysos to reveal its meaning, and though he communicated very little to me directly more and more of it started opening up for me until I had a pretty good sense of what it was, what processes it oversaw, and once mastered how its energy could be utilized.
At which point Dionysos and I needed to have another heart-to-heart because I was very uncomfortable making what amounted to Nazi spiritual tech part of the Starry Bull tradition. I knew enough by then that I was convinced it was so much more than that and the Nazis and related Occultists had only scratched the surface – but it’d be a really fucking hard sell for others. The couple of times I’d brought it up in the group people freaked and threatened to leave. These were my people, who trusted and spent years working with me. If they had that reaction, I could just imagine how others would take this.
So Dionysos and I talked. He didn’t try to convince me of anything, beyond the fact that I was on the right track and if I could get over my inhibitions I would make some serious breakthroughs. He assured me that although I would one day share this with others, that was a ways off and I needed to spend time learning and mastering it just for myself. He gave me glimpses of how he’d come by it, what it meant to him beyond the extensive lore surrounding it, and what I might one day be able to do with it – including stuff none of the literature had touched on.
And that’s where things have remained the last couple years. It’s only been twelve months or so since I’ve felt comfortable and confident enough to begin wearing it around or using it in ritual.
No divine commandments. No bullying, intimidation or danger of him retreating. No grand mission. No problem with my hesitancy and oodles of questions, which were all handled by him with patience and grace. No grand conversations about morality, cosmology and the place of man and the Gods in such things. I was merely presented with options and choices, and what follows naturally from them.
Your experience with your Gods may be different than this, leading to the anxieties inherent in your question – but this is Dionysos we’re talking about, and one of the things he values above nearly all else in his interactions with humans is consent and things happening in the right way, in the right place, at the right time.
And for that I am infinitely grateful.