Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dionysos and Dreams

I was drawn to Dionysos long before I had the courage to take any action to really connect with him, even to pray to him.  Ten years ago, in fact, the interest goes back.  And I'd say that I started with some very hesitant prayers only about 4 years ago.  The impetus and reasons are a long story, but suffice it to say that the first ways he answered those prayers were in dreams.

Honestly, I have no idea if he communicates this way with others, or if there's sources to back it up... but I would not be surprised if there were.  Or do all gods communicate this way at some point or another?  It seems the natural way to get someone's attention, particular if they aren't attentive in other ways, spiritually or psychically speaking.

But anyway, I thought I would post this dream.  I was reminded of it while conversing with my partner and went looking in my dream journal for it.  He had a similar dream experience with a guide or divinity - where the message was not able to be translated into the waking world - and it made me think that this is not the fault of the dreamer or one's memory, but simply how it is with these types of messages.  "You can't take it with you."  Either it is for your subconscious only and you do not need to know it consciously, or it simply cannot be translated from the dream world to the waking world, much like an epiphany in a psychedelic experience.  You may remember pieces, or more likely how it made you feel, but the bone deep *knowing*?  It's still in your bones, but there are no words.

He hasn't communicated with me in this way lately, but I feel like it is something I could pursue or request in a ritual fashion, and perhaps I will in the future.

I copied and pasted this directly from my dream journal.  It is from April 29th, 2009.

Dreamed that I was staying with a group of women at a house or spiritual retreat.  It felt like a cross between a coven and a small school or teaching group.  I felt like I was fairly new there, and still getting to know everyone. All of the women were pretty young, including the woman everyone deferred to as the leader or teacher.  I remember all of us gathered in a living room, and the teacher was taking input and requests and just general status of everyone.  (The most I can recall specifically is that one of the girls asked for a firecracker for an outdoor prayer ceremony.)  At one point, the teacher telekinetically drew what looked like a red candle to her.  (It didn't float, but more like a strong burst of energy had tossed it towards her.)  I said that I wanted to learn how to do that.  (Slight sense of feeling like I was "behind", like this was something I could be doing too if I'd been more dedicated.)  At this point, I turned my attention to the closest object, which appeared to be a bag of food (dog food maybe?).  I focused on it and reached out my hand towards it, but sitting several feet away.  I felt focused, feeling energized, on the verge of something.  My first couple attempts didn't work, but I could hear a female (inner?) voice in my head directing me what to do, how to bridge to gap with the energy, and using the motion of my arm as if I was grabbing it (to release the energy), it suddenly lurched off the shelf.  I was absolutely thrilled.  I went up to the bedroom I was staying in, and thought about how I should text _____ and _____ about it.  (With the sense that this was a retreat, and that I was staying here for a certain length of time and would not be seeing them soon.)

I was wandering in a backyard later, and there was an open section of fence where the yard met with the neighbor's.  Laying along this in-between section were three or four black dogs, one particularly smaller than the others.  They were all fast asleep even when I was standing right next to them.  I reached down to touch one of them, and only as I did it did I realize it might not be a great idea.  But although a couple of them startled awake, nothing bad happened.  It seemed that they might be neglected.

In another part of the dream, a group of us from the house were going to a club or event.  We were all dressed up, colorful and mardi gras-ish.  We were standing outside getting ready to go in, and the teacher was talking to everyone.  It was at this point that I realized that they were all transvestites, all actually men dressed as women.  I was not bothered, but did feel a mild sense of surprise ("How did I not notice before?") as I studied their features.  They were all pretty and quite feminine, but still noticeably not women if I looked carefully.

(Upon waking, these parts of the dreams are what I was remembering, and thinking to myself that they seemed rather Dionysian - particular the cross dressing and perhaps the rest as a message to focus more on my spiritual path - at which point I suddenly remembered the last part of the dream.)

We were inside the club and talking and drinking. I remembering seeing an image of myself wearing an elaborate layered skirt - light, maybe cream colored - composed of a multitude of square or rectangular patches of material, and a top that resembled one I own IRL. (sleeveless, low cut - white, cream, lacy with flower designs).  As I type this, I just realized what the skirt reminds me of - the skirt of the Cretan snake goddess!  In the dream, I separate from the rest of the group and go to the restroom.  While there, a boy comes in.  I know he is Dionysos or else he tells me so.  He is wearing all one color, a bright green - he seems young, younger than I would expect, maybe 18 or so.  He is very thin, dark haired.  Other than that, his features elude me.  He went on talking to me animatedly, and I remember being very excited with what he was saying - feeling special perhaps.  But I can not remember any of it upon waking, not a single word.  Our discussion was interrupted by someone else coming into the restroom, and he was gone.  I remember thinking that if the person had overheard, they would assume I was talking to myself, and probably would not have seen the god when he was there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Khutroi - Anthesteria Day 3

It rained off and on, mostly while we were sleeping.  When we went to the cemetery everything was wet, and the clouds seemed close, ominous and beautiful.  While we were there, only a couple cars came and went but for the most part we were completely alone, which seemed odd for a Saturday. 

We walked around, looked at placques and grave markers, smiling and noting the different phrases and symbols people choose to memorialize each other.  We talked about families, death, trees, and the past...  The trees, particularly, I was drawn to.  They seemed like the guardians and sentinels of the dead.  There were several that are not as common here, including many lovely olive trees, and it made me realize that these trees had to have been deliberately placed for their associations, meaning and folklore, something which I hadn't considered before.  There were some pines here and there, and some rosemary and rose bushes around a marble tomb.  Many others we didn't recognize but wished we did.  I resolved to learn more about native plants and trees.

We poured out milk and honey offerings, and I left out some coffee cake under a hedgerow.  We read a beautiful modern translation of the Orphic hymn to Hermes.  We both noticed the strangeness of the birds, which only started singing when the sun went down.

Went and visited my family later since there were a couple birthdays to observe, but my mood was subdued and I didn't enjoy myself as much as I usually would.  My sister and brother in law wanted tarot readings, and I obliged, but felt "off". 

I felt a little better when I went home because I was able to take a bath and smudge and asperge the apartment.  I used creosote again -- put some in my bath, used a branch of it to sprinkle the saltwater, and hung sprigs at the doors.  Keres thus banished, I took down the temporary altar.  My usual Dionysos shrine is a bit transformed for having the mask on it though... a good reminder of Anthesteria.


This is a wonderful and complex festival, and I definitely see myself continuing to celebrate Anthesteria next year and in future years.  I can see how it would be a little different every year.  (And a big thank you to Sannion whose resources, writing and enthusiasm for the festival were all instrumental.)

Although I moved my observance of Anthesteria so that it centered on the full moon rather than the traditional days for practical reasons, this felt right to me... I like the full moon energy being mixed with the Aiora and the hieros gamos.  I may do it that way next time, too, depending on what is possible with my work schedule. 

I think about resolutions I've made in years past to try and observe all the Wiccan sabbats, where I'd fail every time, and I've realized that this is less a personal failing than simply because the sabbats themselves (Yule and Samhain aside) are not personal to me.  Which isn't to say you can't make them personal, but it was always something I had trouble with, especially with the desert seasons being different.  So this has been a good first step in me really creating festivals and seasonal observances that make sense to me.  Another goal for this year is to create a festival honoring the beginning of the monsoon season -- I am excited for this!

And lastly, not so much an afterthought, but an afterfeeling... a sense of amazement and awe for this God, who IS the God Who Comes, who can be so vividly and startling PRESENT.  Hail Dionysos!

Khoes & Aiora - Anthesteria Day 2

After waking and showering, I did my opening ritual and meditation in silence.  I was feeling rather anxious and apprehensive about the whole day - not only the prospect of not speaking until my night ritual, but also about the night ritual itself. 
Using yarn and some twigs I had gathered the day before, I made 3 little yarn dolls in honor of Erigone -- one black, one red, one white.  Each one turned out quite different.  I would have liked to have made more, but I wanted to get to the park before sundown. 

My partner came with me to the park to go swinging.  I chose to go to the park next to the house where I grew up.  Though only a half hour or so from my current home, it had been a while since I'd been to the area and it always feels odd to see the things that have changed and the things that have stayed the same.  I was happy to see all the familiar trees in the park, and sad to see that all the trees I'd known at the house I grew up were gone. 

When we first got there, there was a large flock of birds swooping around the western sky.  There were a couple groups of teenagers in the park but none on the swings.  We put on some flying ointment and spent some time swinging.  The sky was overcast and although we felt a drop or two of rain, it never rained outright.  I had a hard time focusing, so I just tried to pay attention to the sensation of swinging, particularly with my eyes closed.  I smoked a clove cigarette and we passed the wine back and forth a couple times.  Not speaking started making me feel like I was occupying a slightly different space than everyone else.

We walked around the park so I could look for trees to hang the red and black dolls.  (The white one I kept and later hung in the tree outside my apartment.)  I had left a long string of yarn on each, which came in handy because I wanted to get them to branches above arm's reach.  I had to literally swing them back and forth to get enough momentum to get them over the branch.  This took a few tries for each.  At one point, I dropped one and as a reached down I saw that it had fallen next to a dead bird which I hadn't seen until that point, which was a little disconcerting. 

I wasn't quite ready to leave yet, so we sat in the middle of a field (what felt like "center" to me) and faced west where the last of the sunlight was fading.  We spent some time quietly sensing the energy of each other and the earth beneath us.  I wouldn't have been surprised to see ghosts walking around in the fading light.

Later that evening after dinner, I made preparations for my ritual.  I sequestered myself, I stared into the eyes of the mask I had made, used my voice for the first time that day to call forth the god, and performed my version the hieros gamos.  And without going into more detail or trying to describe or what should only be described in poetry, if anything, for now I'll just say...

Holy fuck.

I was in a daze for a little while afterwards, time and memory playing tricks on me, and even though it was only around midnight, I ended up laying down for about 3 hours of sleep, and then suddenly waking up very alert.  I played a computer game for a while, read and recovered, then went back to sleep at 9:30 or so.  I journaled some notes for myself at some point, too, thank goodness, because even glancing back now it's amazing how easily those truer moments slip away.

Pithoigia - Anthesteria Day 1

All 3 days included preparations in the afternoon, and outing that crossed over into twilight and sunset, and then further activities in the evening.  I work a graveyard shift and keep my hours the same on my days off, so this was logical.  But even aside from that, it seemed very appropriate to be out in the twilight each day, for a festival that includes light and dark and haunting elements.  Also, it has always been my favorite time for its beauty and surreal in-betweenness.

I set up a two-tiered temporary altar for the festival.  I do not have a Dionysos statue yet, so I printed out several images.  One of Dionysos framed on the altar, and another 2 Anthesteria-themed images taped in front -- one of the Aiora with a man pushing a woman on a swing, and another of the procession of Dionysos' ship pulled on wheels.  All the wine was on the floor along the bottom.  Most of the time there were white, black and red candles burning as well as the oil lamp flame.


My partner joined me for most of the festival, which was wonderful.  Though not a devotee of Dionysos, per se, he certainly has much respect and appreciation for him.  That I can share personal aspects of my spiritual life with him is one of the reasons I love him so much.

The opening invocation was spontaneous, and much more powerful than I anticipated.  Impromptu ritual often makes me nervous, sometimes even when alone.  But that was, if anything, a reason that I challenged myself to do it.  I can't even remember all of what I said, but the god's presence was strong throughout.  But after the invocation itself, I thanked him for blessings in the past year, I asked him to bless the wine and poured the first portion out to him, and read a couple hymns aloud.

With bottles of water and wine, we then went walking in the area around my apartment complex.  Despite the freeway being close by, there is a river wash and a large bridge recently built over it.  A park area and ramada are all in the process of being built there, too, and I'd been wanting to explore it all.  We gathered some wildflowers on the way and ran into several groups of quail.  (Birds were a theme throughout the whole festival.)

One of my goals was to collect some creosote branches.  Buckthorn, though traditional to Anthesteria, is not something I expected to find easily in the Southwest desert.  But in thinking of the land and plants I WAS familiar with, it occurred to me that Creosote (also called Chapparal) also has medicinal associations of being cleansing and detoxifying.  (Interestingly, a ring of creosote in the Mojave desert is said to be one of the oldest living organisms on earth. It is a formidable plant!)  It is significant to the desert seasons, too, because of the familiar scent it releases during the rains, and I've always loved it for that reason.  Rain and the smell of rain are rare pleasures here. 

I had faith we'd run into some eventually.  Amusingly, my partner could smell it nearby before we could see it.  This time of year the creosote is greener than usual but not budding just yet.  We poured out some wine to the plant while I collected some green sprigs and my partner picked out some larger, fallen branches to see if they would lend themselves to wand-making.

It got dark quickly, but there was moonlight and streetlights along and underneath the bridge.  I can't really explain why I love the bridge so much.  It's just... bridgey!  It's a very modern construction, but it's so *between*.  You could walk across it OR underneath it, and particularly underneath you get a very sudden sense of *other*.  Visually, the whole little area is an interesting collision of city and desert that seems it would be a good area for magic-working.  I forgot to get pictures there, but I will sometime in the future.

The mood was both fun and reverent.  We kept the wine flowing, and later in the evening we feasted on assorted fruits and foods, including a leg of lamb that I had cooked in the slow cooker.  Yum!  We then settled down to our "crafts" for the evening while listening to music.  My partner worked on his creosote wand, while I began making my Dionysos mask. 

While camping earlier in the month, I had found a tree that was shedding large pieces of bark, and I had taken a couple of these with the intent of making a mask.  It wasn't one I was intending to wear, so the weight of it was not a concern.  But I really liked the idea of a piece of tree becoming the face of the god.  Otto's Dionysos: Myth and Cult was a huge inspiration here, not only in my understanding of masks (and trees) in the cult of the god, but I also used one of the vase images in the book for the design.  I wanted it to be more abstract than life-like, so it worked perfectly, though I may make a life-like one eventually.  I painted the inner side with black and gold acrylic paint.  Technically if you held it up to your face, the face of the god would be touching your face and the bark of the tree would be facing out.  I was very happy with the final result. 

While we were crafting, we also drank a special bottle of local wine we'd gotten from Jerome (on a devotional day in December when we'd gone wine tasting).  Before passing out, we ended the evening by watching Eddie Izzard.  I had forgotten how many jokes he makes about Greek mythology!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Song for Khutroi

This whole album is brilliant.  And the fact that "Flowers" came up on shuffle on Pithoigia was lovely and appropriate.  But this one, "Wait for Me", is Hermes and Orpheus singing. 

Just throwing this up before we go to the cemetery.  I will doing a bigger write up on Anthesteria in the next couple days...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anthesteria Approaching...

For most, it's here already, but my observance won't start til Thursday!  However, I have noticed a certain tone to my dreams the last couple of nights.  Specifically two nights ago, where there was this sense of ghosts and gloom along with love and sensuality.  I even woke up thinking, "How very anthesteric."  (Yes, I made up a word.)  The same night, my lover, unfamiliar with the myth of Erigone, dreamt of a girl killing herself and becoming a constellation. 
In the meantime, here's a very Dionysian song I discovered last year.  It's dark, it's sexy, and it seems particularly appropriate to Anthesteria... 
I wanna feel good
With my personal god
Tell me what to do
Tell me who to love
I see you walking
With the weight of the world
On your shoulders
Let me ease it
I wanna look good
For my personal god
Tell me how to feel
Tell me who to hurt
I see you hiding
Deep down in your hole
I would lend a hand
You can trust me
I wanna show you
My personal god
I've been hiding him
Hiding in the hole
I wanna feel good
With my personal god
I wanna look good
For my personal god

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Looking ahead, this is going to be a busy month!!  On top of my regular devotional days, there's two 3 day blocks of events.
The first... this week over the Noumenia, I'm taking a camping trip with my two dearest and most spiritual friends.  We have no specific rituals planned, but simply being out in nature for a while will be nice.  For certain, I would like to build a shrine to the nymphs and try to commune with them.  Other than that, and ringing in the Noumenia and reaffirming commitments, I just planning on being open to any spontaneous experiences or encounters.  If we have time we may drive more northward to search for amanitas.  
Then there's the Anthesteria... I'm working on the actual dates, so I'm pushing my celebration of those three days back to the full moon and the day before and after.  I haven't really attempted something like this before.  The idea is both exciting and intimidating. 
I'm still planning what I'd like to do for Anthesteria - but after reading Otto's Dionysos, I'm suddenly rather taken with the idea of both making a mask for the god and integrating that into my rituals. 
The Aiora (swinging festival) really intrigues me.  Even as an adult I would readily admit that I enjoy going swinging.  There was a night perhaps a year and a half ago, where a solo walk ended up with me spontaneously swinging in an empty park.  My life was on the threshold of a lot of change at the time, and the act of it felt very significant, though I didn't know why.  I just remember swinging, looking at the moon, and both crying and feeling inexplicably joyful at the same time.  That people might have once approached the act in a spiritual sense never even occurred to me before, but makes sense.  I'm looking forward to this.
So, so far, it looks like the first day will be creative (mask making) and celebratory (flowers and feasting).  Second day, the more intense work including the Aiora and some form of the sacred rite in the evening (trance and mind-altering substances likely).  Third day, offerings to the dead and hymns to Hermes, perhaps a trip to the cemetery.  Smudging and cleansing at the end of the day seems appropriate.
I'm working on Valentine's Day, but maybe I'll still try to fit in something extra with Aphrodite.  I know a lot of people who dislike the holiday.  Myself, I've loved ALL holidays since I was a kid.  And one that's dedicated to love?  How can that be bad?  In my opinion, if you let yourself get bogged down by the commercialism then you have no one but yourself to blame.  It's not the responsibility of commercial industries to keep the sacred in our holy days, it's our own.  (End rant.)  I'm sure my parents were an influence here too.  I never saw Valentine's Day as solely for romantic love, partly because they always got my siblings and I our own individual cards (and candy, naturally) expressing their love for each of us as individuals.   
There's other projects and miscellany and goals, but those are the big ones!

Dionysos: Myth and Cult by Walter F. Otto

One aspect of my goals in being more spiritual and devotional this year includes wanting to read more about the gods.  I remember beginning to read this a couple years back and getting bogged down in the first 50 pages which discusses myth and cultus in general.  Which is unfortunate, because I found that section and the whole book extremely rewarding when I actually sat down and gave it the attention it deserved.

I love how Otto blasts certain fallacies and assumptions that are STILL being made today (probably even more so than his time in the 1930's, I'd wager).  Fallacies such as... 1) Deities begin as a simple idea or concept and evolve into a more complex personality.  2) That Dionysos can be boiled down to his role as a "vegetative" deity or that all deities and cult practices can be traced to such. 3) That one can even begin to scratch the surface of a god or cult practices using psychology or a modern mindset.  No, Otto says, to even begin to understand the god or his followers we must first assume the reality of the god himself!

The work and discussion is scholarly, but the tone and approach are reverent and even poetic at times.  (Indeed, how else can one broach topics like ecstasy, madness, and the mysteries of life and death without poetry?)

My timing in reading this book was good for a couple reasons... It discussed some details of  Anthesteria, which is coming up soon.  I had been trying to research online but have found limited information so far.  In particular, it explained reasoning why a spring festival might have connections with the dead which was illuminating for me.  Which leads to another illuminating topic, Dionysos' association with death, and even as a god of death.  It's a connection I felt intuitively insomuch as I think of him as transformative and often destructive, but there is a lot of explicit association with death and for some reason that both surprised and made sense to me.  (It further explained one aspect of an interaction I'd had with him recently, as well.)

Also fascinating was the discussion of the significance of the mask in Dionysos' cult, his association with prophecy as well as with water, Ariadne's association with Aphrodite, comparison of the ivy and vine... Okay, obviously I could go on and on. 

My one complaint... I don't know Greek (damn it), and he sometimes quotes Greek epithets and titles and phrases without translating them.  A minor thing which doesn't take away a whole lot from the reading as a whole, but still left me curious every time.

Here are some favorite quotes:

"Were the phenomenon of artistic creation completely lost to us at some time, we would first have to approach it with wonder before we would dare to penetrate its meaning. So, the phenomenon of cultus, which has, as a matter of fact, been lost to us except for a few ancient remnants, should awaken in us, above all, a deep sense of awe."

"The visage of every true god is the visage of the world. There can be a god who is mad only if there is a mad world which reveals itself through him.  Where is this world? Can we still find it? Can we appreciate its nature? For this no one can help us but the god himself."

"The more alive this life becomes, the nearer death draws, until the supreme moment - the enchanted moment when something new is created - when death and life meet in an embrace of mad ecstasy."

"Wine has in it something of the spirit of infinity which brings the primeval world to life again."

"How could man who had been touched by the Divine remain inert and motionless when all genuine revelation awakens the power of creativity?"

Kerenyi's Dionysos is probably the next logical selection to read.  But I have The God Who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited by Rosemarie Taylor-Perry on back order from Amazon so I may read that first *if* they ever ship it to me, since I haven't bought Kerenyi's book yet.