Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Festival of Ariadne

When the sun goes down, we start preparing things... molding snakes out of clay, making beeswax candles, readying the feast food... and all the small details that goes into setting up the ritual space.

It's already late when we begin.

A creosote branch dipped in saltwater cleanses the space, each other, and makes the small room smell like rain.

We vibrate our chakras, using Greek god names.*  Our energies align, our senses open.

In the North, the bull.  In the South, the snake.  In the East, the vine.  In the West, the ivy.
We call you, Dionysos!  Bull-faced Lord of the Labyrinth.  Gentle and kind-hearted God, who wed the fair Ariadne and gifted her with stars for jewels.  Shape-changer, initiator, god of life. Come to us, like the roar of the ocean’s waves.  Embrace us like the ivy, O Lord.  We welcome you, Beloved God.

We call you, Ariadne!  Lady of the Labyrinth, who holds the mysteries of the Underground and the ecstasies of the heavens. Daughter of the Moon, whose brothers are full of secrets - honeyed Glaucus and two-natured Asterion. Wife and lover of Dionysos, the most wild and ecstatic god. You lead the maenads in their dance. Bearer of serpents, you have known madness, grief and death, and have reclaimed your divinity. Your crown shines in the summer sky. Come to us, riding a panther and carrying your sacred thread, the color of blood.  Priestess of the Bull, most holy and pure Ariadne, we celebrate your ascent to the heavens. We honor you, light in the darkness, You who holds the key. Come to us, with the grace of a swarm of bees, with the wide-eyed knowing of the owl. We feast for you, we dance for you, we would behold you, Beloved Goddess.

White wine from Crete is poured in offering.  And honey is offered as well.

To All the Gods, honey. To the Mistress of the labyrinth, honey.

We meditate in silence to prepare.  Incense smoke of dittany and bay fill the room.  I feel Ariadne's presence like I have not before. She seems pleased, and is wordlessly bidding me prepare for what She has in store.

Then the drums begin, and we take the pose of the Minoan Snake Goddess.**

Arms raised aloft, the posture becomes strenuous in stages.  Part of me feels sad that I do not sense Her anymore.  But this feels like an initiation, so perhaps that is the point...  I sweat and endure, in and out of trance.  There is a vastness around me.  My husband tells me later that he knew right away the posture was not for him, and was bid to be the bull, to dance for the Lady of the Labyrinth, instead.  Snakes and bull.  Snakes and bull.  That is as much as can be put into words...

As we end that portion of the ritual, I feel invigorated. With a bottle of mead in one hand and a ball of red yarn in the other, we begin our walk to the labyrinth.  The night is warm but not uncomfortable.

After walking a little over a mile, we are there.  We spend some time looking at stars, pointing out constellations.

I walk first.  I don't think of much particular, but I am calm and at peace.  When I get to the center, I remember other labyrinths I have walked.  How my shadow looked at sunrise the first time I walked a labyrinth, on my birthday, many years ago.  The labyrinth I walked in Sedona when I made a life-altering decision.  I feel the thread that ties me to those times, those selves.  I face outward and notice how wide the night sky seems, and how in-the-middle-of-everything-
mundane this particular labyrinth is.  By a city street, between office buildings and a church.  And yet wherever a labyrinth is, it creates a feeling of center.  It reminds us that the center is not exclusively on a sacred mountaintop somewhere, but it is wherever we are when we become aware of our place in the universe.

While my husband walks, I lay down on a bench and look at the stars.  I lift up my ball of yarn and eclipse the moon. I pull out the string and imagine I'm connect it to various stars.  As I bring my arms back together and let the yarn fall slack, it twists into the shape of a noose dangling towards my face.  I smile.

On the walk back, my shoe breaks and I walk barefoot part of the way, but this doesn't bother me.

Exquisitely hungry and exhausted, once we get home we shower and feast before ceremoniously passing out.

* This is a strange mix of systems, I realize, but it works for me.  I vibrate the following god-names to correspond to the chakras: Root - Dionysos / Sacral - Aphrodite / Solar Plexus - Apollon / Heart - Ariadne / Throat - Hermes / Third Eye - Persephone / Crown - Dionysos

** Using the postures of ancient figures and statues as "keys" to specific types of trance or spirit journeying was researched by anthropologist Felicitas Goodman.  Her theory was that these poses are not arbitrary, but are encoded information from that culture about how they interacted with the spirit world.  Her research found that the posture being held for about 15 minutes while listening to drumming or rattling at 210 bpm (beats per minute) would allow for trance experiences specific to that posture -- some postures were found to be divinatory, healing, metamorphic, or conducive to traveling to the upper or lower world.  A few were also found to be initiatory or simply celebratory in nature.  The Minoan Snake Goddess posture was NOT one researched by Goodman or other authors of books teaching her methods (to my knowledge), but I believe from my own experience that it is an initiatory posture.  I've been planning a more extensive blog post about my experiences with ecstatic trance postures, which I started experimenting with nearly 4 years ago.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Devotions to Ariadne

I've been a bit negligent on observing devotional days and I've been trying to change that this month.  I realized that part of my problem is that I feel as if I should be able to devote a whole *day* to each one, and so when that seemed impossible, I would try to move it around, but inevitably other obstacles, and you know, life, gets in the way.  So I'm telling myself that "the day is the day is the day".  Whole days set aside for festivals are wonderful, but there's no need to be separating the spiritual from the mundane completely all the time, and in fact probably a lot of arguments FOR blending them.  I've revised my lists of possible activities for each devotional day, to include small activities as well as more time consuming ones.  And most importantly, just keeping the god/dess in mind during the day, and being present, paying attention... which doesn't take any time, simply effort!  This small change in perspective seems to be working well for me this month.

When I first started observing devotional days, the 4th was for Aphrodite.  I had a small shrine for Her as well.  Though I never had any direct experiences with Her, I felt like I couldn't NOT honor the blessings of love in my life somehow.  Aphrodite is a grand and complex goddess, with plenty of association with Dionysos.  And while I didn't feel like my offerings and prayers fell flat exactly, something just didn't click. 

Something had stuck with me that I had read in Otto's Dionysos: Myth and Cult, which was that on Cyprus Ariadne was worshipped as Ariadne Aphrodite (which to me brings to mind Ariadne as deified by Dionysos).  So with this in mind, I made some changes to my shrine intending to focus on this syncretized aspect.  I used red and black cloths, I added a snake goddess statue I'd acquired many years ago, and a round mirror for Ariadne's lunar aspects.  Admittedly now I've just come to think of it as "Ariadne's shrine", for I feel she's more complex than this particular aspect  (and likely was a Minoan deity in her own right). So I hope Aphrodite takes no offense... But it feels less as if I'm "changing deities" than that I am adjusting my practice to reflect the goddess that my heart was already resonating with, if that makes sense.  I'm not sure why I was hesitant to do this in the first place... but my experience with Ariadne has been a bit like the labyrinth itself.  She actually led me to Dionysos to begin with, in Her roundabout way, and since then I danced around Her for a quite a while before getting to this point.

I wasn't sure at first where to place a devotional day for Her... The full moon seemed appropriate considering Her lunar aspects, although it falls awful close to Dionysos', so I settled on keeping it on the 4th for now.  I realized when the day came that this is when the waxing moon looks very much like bull horns!

All that being said!  I spent some time communing with Ariadne on Her devotional day.  Offered up milk and honey, and some white wine, as well as some lotus-scented incense.  I put on some music, and sat down with pen and paper hoping to gel together some of my haphazard ideas for an Ariadne festival into something more concrete and organized.  And indeed, I wrote out a very long invocation for her and everything fell into place for the festival, which is both encouraging and exciting.  I've feel that this will be one of two yearly festivals for her.  (This one in midsummer, the second in the fall.)  But since this is my first attempt at creating a new festival, we shall see how it all turns out!  At the time of posting this, the festival is actually tomorrow! Or today after I've slept, however you wish to look at it.)

One last thing to note -- dreams have been something I've been thinking about off and on lately (including dream incubation, lucid dream states, how one might induce oracular dreams, that sort of thing).  It was not something I was thinking about while I was brainstorming for Ariadne's festival, but nevertheless, the message came through suddenly that She could be a dream guide.  And I thought, Lady of the Labyrinth, holder of the thread... well that makes sense!  I'll blog more about this as it develops.