Thursday, August 8, 2019

Anthesteria poem

I had this mostly written right after Anthesteria, but kept forgetting to finish it.  And I debated sharing it at all because it's a snapshot of a pretty intense, sacred and intimate ritual experience.  But it's a love poem that's worth sharing.

For You, Dionysos

For You, Iakkhos, 
I robed myself in twilight silence,
Isolated and Othered,
becoming like a phantom, sliding into sanctity,
so that when I finally cried
“My God, You are Here!”
my voice was a gift and an anchor that 
tethered us both to the waiting Earth.

For You, Limnaios,
I submerged my body by candlelight,
in a bath of holy water,
blessed with angel root and holy thistle,
shined my skin with oil and salt,
(breathing in)
my cigarette of flowers -- releasing 
memories of some past springtime
(and out)
into the air, like ghosts,
but some always stay, 
plant their seeds, spread their roots and
settle in
(as You will)
for a more prolonged possession.

For you, Agrios, 
I fell in with the Raving Ones.
Such silent predators, they!
To see them is to 
be surrounded, 
sacrificed and subsumed.
We are an eclipse of panthers,
devouring time,
holes in the sky pierced by
silver teeth and claw
as We haunt the forbidden dreams
of yesterdays’ girls.
The seeds are planted and so...
when madness comes knocking,
there is nought to do but remember--
there was never a door.

For You, Katharsios,
I accept the sacrament,
understand the sacrifice,
say yes, with parted lips,
cup to kiss.
You come--flowing, filling my mouth,
fired and fermented, red and raw--
down my throat. 
This is Your divine plan, realized over millennia,
to get in the blood, to liberate from the inside out.
You’ve inhabited more bodies
than any other God. 
We implore. We desire.
Thou art. Such art. 
O Savior,
I am undone.

“For You, my Beloved…”
A bullroarer is still ringing in my ears
as I find myself on the floor.
The weight of holiness has slipped away.
in a post-storm stillness.
I am the lightning-struck tree, forever scorched,
the pitcher, filled 
and overturned, filled 
and overturned,
sweetly aching, hollow and poured out.
Drums fade -- receding hoof beats
that leave a hundred thousand flower beds
in their wake --
as the pregnant, wine-soaked earth
begins to sing.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Anthesteria 2019

The Opening of the Wine Jars

This was my 2nd Anthesteria away from my home state and my first Anthesteria in a New England climate. I was blessed to be able to spend some time outdoors each day. Although the weather was not ideal, it was not downright prohibitive or hostile, even though there have been days since then that could be described that way.

I began my Pithoigia just before sunset, at a small riverside park near my home. There’s a lot of snow on the ground still, although the day was unusually warmer (highly 30’s into the 40’s). It would have been smarter to have snowshoes, but I managed fairly well without.

At the riverside, I said some opening prayers and sounded my bullhorn a few times. I opened the first bottle of wine and shared it in libation on the frozen earth. There are no flowers yet, not even a hint of a sprout. But there is the dream of spring, the promise of it in the less-freezing weather, and certainly the desire for it. And of course, Dionysos can be found in every place and time. 

I walked and chanted, and suddenly remembered I had spontaneously altered a chant to Dionysos a couple years back specifically for this day. I can’t recall how that one went, be this one settled into:

“Come with the wine pots,
Come with the flower petals,
Come with the restless dead,
Dionysos, come!

“Come Anthesterios,
Come to us Bakcheios,
Come to us Lusios,
Dionysos, come!”

I did some tree-pulling at the top of a small hill -- something I’ve experimented with here and there, having found it depicted in Minoan art. We can only speculate on what it meant to the Minoans, but I’ve found it to be a nice way to commune with the land and trees, especially while dancing outdoors, but also in more quiet meditative moments. “Tree-pulling” is a weird term yet oddly descriptive. I usually grasp a smaller tree by its trunk and let the rest of my body fall back and sway back and forth, usually switching hands on the upswing. It’s especially thrilling if you do it near a cliff’s edge or on a hill. Tree-pulling is not unlike swinging but without a rope, expressing a natural rhythm that thrums under the surface. The practice invites your consciousness into tree-time, to notice things like the wind or the way the bare branches fractal against the cloudy sky. Old and elemental are these mysteries of the Mountain Mother.

As I walked back, I whispered to the trees (modern maenad to the Nymphae): “Dionysos is here!”

In a stroke of good fortune, I had acquired about $50 worth of fresh flowers for free from my work at the last minute, and it made my shrines at home quite beautiful.

A part of me always hopes to create something lovely on Anthesteria (it’s when I’ve made some treasured devotional pieces in the past). It doesn’t happen every year, though, and I found myself just needing to unwind and let go this time, so I honored that inclination. I played around with watercolors a little but mostly I just spent the evening listening to music and drinking an amazing bottle of Amarone wine I’d been saving for over a year.

My feast foods were wonderful. One of the reasons I got a later start in the day was that I spent time making mostly-homemade baklava (I bought the phyllo dough.) I made it because I adore it, but it’s also a perfectly symbolic dessert for Anthesteria. Layers of dough and chopped nuts akin to layers of the soil and gravel and earth. Then soaked in honey and a bit of rosewater to symbolize the flowers. I also added chopped figs, for even more of a Dionysos association. It’s the first time I made it and it turned out wonderfully; I think I can make it even better next time now that I understand the process better.

Aiora & Khoes
The Swing & the Wine Pitcher

Traditionally, I spend Khoes in silence until my ritual in the evening, so that my words are reserved to exclaim the epiphany of Dionysos. But it has other benefits, too. It releases the pressure of much mundane interaction, and allows me to keep my mind on what’s holy. Throughout the day it’s as if I’m gradually disengaging with the “normal” world and by the time night rolls around I’ve already got a solid foot in the spirit realm. It’s not a bad way to honor the hanging girls for the Aiora either, which is what I spend the first half of the day doing.

I made paper cut outs of the hanging girls this year instead of the stick and yarn figures I’ve made in the past. I also learned to tie a noose-knot with the rough craft twine. I was very happy with how they turned out, and putting them on paper allowed me to write on them, so I wrote poems as well.

Remember Erigone
Beloved of Dionysos
She swung on the tree
by her graceful throat
suspended like a ripe fruit
earth and starry heaven

Remember Ariadne
Beloved wife of Dionysos
Keeper of holy mysteries
She surrendered her mortal body
to her immortal daemon
on the isle of Naxos
So she might wear a crown of stars

Remember Arachne
Beloved of Dionysos
Weaver who knew her worth
She pays penance web by web
The Spider Queen
of primal wisdom.

I went to a park I hadn’t been to before, nestled in a quiet neighborhood. It wasn’t exactly private but probably due to the chilly weather, I had the place to myself and no one bothered me. I poured out wine, listened to music I associate with the hanging girls while swinging between setting sun and rising moon. How is it that this always strikes me anew, every year... This feeling of being in the axis of a lunar/solar seesaw?

I took breaks to hang the girls, one by one, and place a daffodil in the snow at the base of their trees. A bit of sympathetic flower magic, if you will. Some red wine in the snow like spilled blood. I stayed until the bare trees took on that eerie quality of negative space, and the stars started peeking out through the spidery branches. By that time the moon seemed impossibly bright and I was fascinated by the way the moonlight was casting tree shadows on the snow -- not something I had experienced before.

I prayed to the land spirits for a time, and then returned home to prepare myself for my Khoes ritual.

And what can I say of that, that could possibly do it justice? I am reminded that there is always more levels to ekstasis, and there is always more to surrender. There is the god of many masks, and then there is the god triumphant and manifest - without metaphor - who simply is and is right fucking here.

Alethia meets soma.

I am filled with awe.

The Pots

On my way to the graveyard, I couldn’t help but notice how the light seemed different. It seemed to glow a little brighter, as if I was seeing reality through a different filter.

The cemetery was a large and beautiful lakeside one. New England cemeteries are something else. Older, of course, and more atmospheric, with a lot of unique memorials. Unfortunately there was so much snow I couldn’t wander as freely amongst the tombstones as I normally would have, and it was colder than the previous two days so I didn’t linger overlong. But I did say a prayer to Hermes, poured out wine and left flowers in various places - and of course left the beans and grain panspermia I had cooked for the dead.

In the evening I went to a wine tasting party I had been invited to by a coworker. (Believe it or not, I nearly declined the invitation because I was going to be too busy observing a Dionysian festival… before realizing how ridiculous that was.) It was great fun. It was a group of 8-10 people coming together for the primary purpose of sharing a love of wine for a couple hours. And for me, there’s nothing quite like the giddy buzz you get from tasting a variety of wines. The most unusual was a 10 year old sparkling rosé that smelled like a sweet port but tasted like a dry champagne with strong notes of wild mushrooms!

Back at home I wrapped things up by burning some banishing herbs and bidding the keres to depart. And that was my Anthesteria.

Festivals that have been celebrated over many years tend to invite you reflect on the past and how things have shifted and evolved in life in general. But I've also found that they set the tone for what's to come. That being said, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store.

Friday, January 25, 2019


(Dionysos returns from the Underworld - and so does this blog!)

Indulge me while I get a little reflective.  This Lenaia is my ninth. It’s taken on a deep significance to me over the years, and yet I can look at what I wrote of my first observance of it - and it’s all there in the beginning. The essence, the ekstasis, the water and wine, the intense nearness of the god and how it feels between us when we reach this part of the wheel and resonate with each other and across time.

It started very simply and then over the years it turned into a 3 day observance that in some sets the stage for Anthesteria.  In the past, I’ve done a variety of activities: shaved my head, gone dancing, attended plays, visited vineyards, watched movies, taken walks or processions or longer nature journeys, prepared big feasts, etc.  I celebrated with my husband for a couple precious years, but usually I was alone.

This was my first Lenaia since moving to Vermont, and I had to scale it back to one day this year.  And unfortunately, I had to cancel any going-out activities due to getting sick and the state getting hit by the first big snowstorm of the year with wind chills below -20 degrees.  So I felt a little saddened but still determined to perform my ritual for the festival. As wonderful as all the other things can be and have been, the ritual is the core of it. I’ve performed a nearly unchanged version of my current Lenaia ritual for 7 years now.  I’m a little amazed that so much has changed in my life since that first Lenaia -- I’ve moved 5 time (twice uprooting my life and moving across country), I’ve experienced the deepest loss I can imagine, gone through a great deal of personal change, experienced initiations of more than one kind --  and yet, somehow, that one simple ritual is still so fucking powerful.

Small amendments were made.  I have much less space now than I used to.  No makeshift pillar. I also didn’t have the painted tree-bark mask I’ve used to represent Dionysos’ eternal aspect, it being perhaps someplace in storage.  So I took a different one, more green-man like, and after fumbling about with ways to set it up I realized that I could just set it in the middle of a potted ivy plant I’d been keeping since solstice, which is growing in a wheel-shape and has lights on it. The effect was so perfect, it was like it was meant to be.

The bay leaf I used to make khernips had noticeable lightning bolt shape cracks through it. I called on Semele and the nymphs and nurses. I called to Dionysos, and rattled and chanted over the veiled liknon until goosebumps cascaded over my skin and the energy peaked. I anointed the phallos within with melted snow.  I ceremonially mixed the water and wine.

Then I set my ipod of over 3700 songs on shuffle - asking Him to choose what he would have me dance to.  And like always, the songs were startling in their appropriateness, forming a dialogue between us. Not solely in the lyrics, but also in associations, personal significance, and tone.

I used no other entheogen other than water mixed with wine.  And still Dionysos was so present. His love so palpable. There was something about accepting that experience in its fullness that was akin to welcoming madness.

My own wildness met the ivy.  My face. His face. My beloved.  I am so blessed! It seems I always end up mixing my tears with the water at some point.  In this state of communion, I asked about the challenges of the last year, the “why’s” weighing on my heart… I think I knew the answer already, but it was nice to hear.

I scryed in the wine bowl until I felt like its darkness was merging with me, as if I was staring into my own depths instead.  Was I the bowl? Aren’t I just a vessel, filled with water and wine? I felt Esoptron quite strongly throughout the evening. There was a full length mirror in my room, and in my trance states I kept mistaking the candlelight shadow of the offering bowl on the wall for another mirror or portal or image of some kind.

After dancing, I feasted and set out food offerings.  The day before, because of being ill, I had lost my sense of taste and the same foods had been bland and boring. But now, with Dionysos present, I could taste everything again suddenly, will all its holy life-force and sensual vibrancy.  If that’s not a metaphor for the god, I don’t know what is.

Lenaia is all about trust and faith...  In the dream of spring in winter. In the God Who Comes.  In the vital reciprocity between us and the divine. May this gnosis find its home in your heart as well.

Within You by David Bowie
The White Beyond by Thoushaltnot
“And when I breathe away my strength
I'll find you in the white beyond
And from above, we'll make the rain
To water mortal dreams at night”
The Way You Are by 46Bliss
“I like to look into your eyes where
Water's warm, feels like home
Travel fast, the seconds last
For days, this haze I'm in…
Put yourself in my place.”
If You’re A wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses? by the Liars
“Out of the bushes / A girl
It's getting cold / Outside
...I would drink the water
I would drink the water
...We can break it down, witches!”
Intimate Stranger by Android Lust
“We are bound we must be found
We are the way to heaven
We're still in the dark but we breathe as one
We must come together
I am water / I am fire
I am aether / I am your answer
I am the seeker / The righteous soldier
The unbeliever / The intimate stranger”
What God Intended by Gary Numan
To Be Alone with You by Sufjan Stevens
Minuit by Perturbator
In a Dark Place by Gary Numan
Kisses 3 by The Cruxshadows
Climbing Up the Walls by Radiohead
“I am the key to the lock in your house
That keeps your toys in the basement
And if you get too far inside
You'll only see my reflection”
Madness in Men by Android Lust
The Greater Good by Thoushaltnot
“For now a deity I stand
Before my judged and blackened kin
Save only one, a different face
Was cleared of her new virgin skin”
Vito’s Ordination Song by Sufjan Stevens
“I always knew you / In your mother's arms
I have called her name / I've an idea
Placed in your mind / To be a better man,
I've made a crown for you / And put it in your room
And when the bride groom comes / There will be noise.
And there will be glad / And the perfect bed”
Shape of Things by Operators
“I got my voice, I'm calling
Across the wild, are you receiving?
Signal in the dark…
And I was born just like you
Born to let them go, just like you”
Epigram by Tycho
Child-Heart Losers by Sunset Rubdown
“There's a child heart in the child
There’s a child heart in the child
Living wild oh
La la la la la
Fire makes it go…”
Q-Chord by Sunset Rubdown
Street Spirit [Fade Out] by Radiohead
“Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again
...Immerse your soul in love”
15 Step  by Radiohead
“How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?
Won't take my eyes off the ball again
You reel me out, then you cut the string”
Modern Drummer by The American Analog Set

Friday, November 4, 2016

Double Acrostic Prayer for Success

I wrote this to include in a Hermes exchange that we did in the Bacchic Underground a little while back, thought I would post it here since today is the Hermaia festival in the Starry Bull tradition.  Hail Hermes!

Hermes, luck-bringer, kindly blesS
Enchant, shift and coalescE
Reality bend my will to forM
Mercurial messenger, open the dooR
Even the odds with twinkling eyE
Sweet son of Maia and Zeus on higH

Thursday, October 27, 2016


I, Semele, made love to lightning,
I am the cup,
the vessel divine.
I know what mysteries are.
I have been made pure by their brilliance,
hallowed and hollowed,
aglow and growing,
the rod that grounds, the earth that accepts the seed of heaven.
He roils in my womb like a cosmic unfolding, the roaring
one, who will be savior,
shifter and shaker
He shows it to me in dreams
whispers tales to me.
Sweet child.  A mother should be the storyteller,
But this is no ordinary son.
And I, always impetuous, foolish princess,
I swallowed more sacred than I should
have, I could have
said no, but I did not
want to, I wanted it
all - god and glory.

They say my lover destroyed me, that I pleaded for proof.
but that is not my story.

Mortals born of mortals,
sometimes a hero or two.
But this bull child can be more,
In my bones, I know.
Simple enough - a sacrifice,
a mortal life for an immortal one, so it goes...

Death comes for all,
Yet I asked for this.
“Don’t hold back this time, it’s time
to burn. Tell him I chose this.
I am his first initiate.”

Play the drum
  play it for his fearless heart
     and I will go down dancing,
my frenzied ashes alight upon the wind
               to the sky I have loved
                   and the storm I’ve born.