Sunday, November 3, 2013

One reason that Dionysos is the god of wine...

As one of the primary processes by which nature breaks down living things so that their energies and atoms might be reused by other living things, fermentation puts us in touch with the ever-present tug, in life, of death.

           - Michael Pollan (Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Old journal fragment

What is it to have a Dionysian experience?  One could argue that any experience is Dionysian.  What I mean by that is allowing yourself to be completely immersed in the *experience* of the experience, regardless of what that experience is.  It could be dancing, acting, singing, celebrating, breathing, looking at the stars, making love, walking or running, standing in the rain, or having that moment of perfect drunkenness where you just ARE...whatever, it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the experience is ALL, and the mind falls away -- to be "out of your mind", by engaging every sense you have into it completely.  In that sublime moment of experience, your soul touches eternity and the God Himself.  At the same time, you come home to your Self, as the masks fall away.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Love your fate

"At a certain moment in Nietzsche's life, the idea came to him of what he called 'the love of your fate.' Whatever your fate is, whatever the heck happens, you say, "This is what I need." It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge.

If you bring love to that moment - not discouragement - you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You'll see that this is really true.

Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not."
  -- Joseph Campbell

I've thought of this quote often in the last couple months, in different contexts.  Most recently, it's the possessive quality in the phrase, "the love of your fate".  As in, this fate is mine. It is something that belongs to me, and was even chosen by me before I was born to this life.  (That is my personal belief, at least.)

I can lament, I can rage, I can weep and pound my fists... And the pain of having been separated from my beloved certainly warrants all of this and more. Sometimes the sheer terrible reality of it hits me out of nowhere. That I can never again look in his eyes or hear his laugh or feel his touch. That his body is now ashes.  And just as terrible, sometimes, is the deep knowing that I will never experience such happiness as I did in those few years we were together.  That just as everyone else gets to live in a state of hopeful anticipation of their future, that mine could never live up to my past.

But on the other hand... I was blessed to be embodied with him in this life, to have known that joy and happiness, to have truly experienced unconditional love.  Should I be considered less fortunate, for having known such blessings in my past versus having the amorphous possibility of something like it in my future?  When not one of us is guaranteed anything in life, except for death?  Would I wish to trade places with anyone I know?  The answer to the last is a definite no, and even that small realization is empowering. Taken as a whole -- my fate, my life, the entirety of my relationship with my beloved -- they are mine to cherish, even when it sometimes feels like my heart is breaking.

And my beloved's fate is his own as well, and I can not try to rob him of its significance -- I can't belittle it as simple tragedy or happenstance -- not on a spiritual level, anyway.  His death was his, and the manner and timing of it all significant to his soul and his path.  Even if one does not believe that such things are planned, per se, it is still certainly sacred and even beautiful.  When someone you love transforms, literally transitions from one form to another, can you do other than continue to love them in their new form, and honor the transition?

Part of our wedding vows:

Him: "I pledge myself to you, and I will love you even beyond death."
Me: "I pledge myself to you, and I will embrace our fate and all that it brings."

So perhaps we even knew, on some level.  Regardless... here I am, my love. Embracing our fate.  And I know you are loving me still. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stepping outside myself for a moment

Tonight I lit candles at my shrines, and said prayers and made offerings on behalf of others, but none for myself.  I only put forth gratitude on my own behalf.  Partly this was inspired by Sannion's offerings for the community, the selflessness of which I think is very inspiring, and partly by being tired of my own self-pity.  I see nothing wrong in praying for oneself, or praying for guidance, but ideally even that should have a feel of gratitude and hope.  Too often, the focus on need seems to create this negative vortex. It's a hard hole to climb out of, and it doesn't feel like it puts me in the right space to receive anything.

Just love. (As my Love would say.)

Tomorrow I'm leaving for the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous near Flagstaff.  Was particularly looking forward to meeting Sarah Lawless, and was very disappointed to hear she had to cancel at the last minute. But the event should still be rewarding.  Herbalism (and entheogens) has always interested me. I've made my own tinctures, incenses, salves, and such, but I've been gradually shifting my focus over the last several years to ways I might work with plants as spirits and teachers and not just as ingredients.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And yet the music still plays

Oh my gods, this music...

It stirs me up, it reminds me of my core, the part that is always longing, the part that only one person has truly known.  He would love this song too.  

Does it even work, trying to explain one's inner landscape by sharing songs?  

This band is called Wolf Parade, fronted by the incredible Spencer Krug, who sometimes goes by the name Moonface.  These are the lyrics:

I am a wall of sand and stone
and you, you're some kind of ivy I'm trying to hold as best as I can.
As best as I can.

But I'm a disaster,
I could not be burning faster

I stick my arms into webs,
I take my meals with weirdos,
And play with my rocket ships.

And all the while you, you
are so composed.
So composed
So composed

You are the most gracious thing I know.
Touched by crooking flowers
Touched by snow

And I put my rockets away.
I think you're fantastic.
I'll put my rockets away.
I know that you care.
I'll put my rockets away.
And you
I'll put my rockets away.
are a house of skin and hair.

I've been running off of fumes again.
I've been running off my mouth.
I've been running in the hours
between midnight and dawn
In the direction of the moon.
With the impression that's the way,
the way to find your house.

So, hey, I will build your bastion
And hey, how long can you put up with these questions
When you got nowhere to go except
into the terrible air?

And I put my rocket away.
I think you're fantastic
I'll put my rocket away.
I know that you care
I'll put my rockets away.
And you
I'll put my rockets away.
are a house of skin and hair)

Erring on the side of culture apparently past
Come down from the good rack crystal glass

'Cause I, I'm a wall of sand and stone.
And you, your some kind of ivy I'm trying to hold
as best as I can.

My beloved, you died...

You died... the year 2013, which you said was going to be your lucky year. your Death card year (8+8+2013 = 2029 = 13) , and me in a Devil card year (11+25+2013 =
2049 = 15)

… in May (the 5th calendar month) on the 14th (reduces to 5) on the 5th day of the lunar month of Thargelion. You may have even died at 5am.

...the spring that the century (agave) plants bloomed. That spring, we had marveled at their height and tasted their nectar (although it was not delicious). the spring after a very strange Anthesteria.  I was horribly sick, yet I was determined to see it through, to keep drinking and doing ritual and not hold back.  It was hard, I had a fever for all 3 of those days, and you were worried that I was pushing myself too hard.  Even then, I would have said that this particular Anthesteria was more about the dead than others we celebrated, but I wouldn't have been able to explain why.

...10 days after we went to Sedona on a day trip. We walked a trail we had never walked before, one that I had visited in my childhood. We saw all the beautiful ivy on the ruins of old buildings, it was picturesque and magical, and we wished he had a camera to take pictures of each other but we both left our phones in the car. On the trail, we saw orange and blue caterpillars coming out of hundreds of webs all along the trees and bushes, and we were so fascinated by them, that we got to witness their emergence. We did tarot readings next to the creek and burned incense. We quietly read for ourselves, me with the Voyager deck and you with the Rider Waite.  I remember looking at your cards, mentioning we’d both gotten a certain card, and yet for some reason we didn’t discuss our readings like we usually would... I don’t know why, but now I wish we had, even though at the time I think we were just quietly peaceful.  We had gone to a new age store, where you bought some stones and we bought a new blanket for the bed, then tried to find a place that was still open to eat.  It ended up being mediocre chinese food, but we got to try some lychee liquor and we were laughing and joking.  On the way home, we harvested some prickly poppies near a rest stop.  I said we should leave an offering and you pulled a tiny amethyst out of your pocket, and I left that on the ground. We listened to your new ipod all that day - you had put electronic music you had composed years ago on there and I was impressed by your talent all over again when it came up on random.

...after 2 or 3 weeks of mysterious occurrences on the patio - the bicycle light kept turning on to one of its last settings. A couple of times you thought I was opening the slide zipper on the bag of soil, but I hadn’t of course. And then the bag of prickly poppy we had harvested was knocked over, and all of them gathered into a neat little pile..  We thought it might be a nature spirit taking up residence on our patio. Now I wonder if it was someone waiting for you. (I saw the light the first time, but otherwise it was almost always when it was just you at home.) It stopped when you died.

...just a few days after an intense conversation we had in bed before we fell asleep.  I asked you something about your history, and suddenly you were telling me the whole “story” of your past relationships in order and in detail. I remember wondering why you felt the need to tell me all of it right then, but I just listened. You told me I had saved your life because I never gave up on you.  I said, “How could I? It took me my whole life to find you, and I wasn’t about to let you go.”  You insisted that I could have but didn’t.

...just a few days after I was feeling intense, almost panicked, for no particular reason while driving to work.  I started to text you, just to reach out and let you know how I was feeling and how inexplicable it was.  But then I erased my text and didn’t mention it.  I don’t know why I erased it.

...2 days before we were going to go camping, just the two of us, on the Rim.  I had told you earlier that week that I wanted you to make love to me in the woods, and you smiled and said we would.  We were going to take the last of our mushrooms.

...the morning after sending me naked pictures of yourself (which you never did before, and are the only nude pictures I have of you), many posed cleverly with mirrors. The strangest thing is, even though your death was certainly unintentional, you had organized the pictures just a couple hours before you died, in a folder titled “Dionysis Takes Me”. I did not find this until 4 months later, but it stunned me. Was it your state of intoxication that inspired such a title??  And yet He took you in more ways than one...

...while listening to your ipod with the songs on shuffle. The song playing when I found you was Go to Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) by Radiohead.  The song after that would have been Keep Sleeping by the Rentals.


It has been just over four months since my husband died.  It's difficult to fathom where I'm supposed to go next, what I'm supposed to do, what future if any I might have.  I'm going to try to write things here in my blog, mainly to sort out my feelings, keep track of things.  It still seems wrong that I'm here, that I'm alive when he is not.  We always said we must die together, because how else could we bear it?  And yet here I am, and I'm trying to believe there is a reason.

Me, my grief, and this blog, are like to be a mess. Dark, not always linear, not always getting better, and not able to make promises. 

I feel like my path must inevitably be drawn to the dead, to those death aspects of Dionysos, and to forging whatever relationship I can with my beloved.  But where to begin?  I am not particularly sensitive, I am not a spirit-worker.  I feel paralyzed, sometimes with grief and sometimes with simply not-knowing.  I know the only cure for paralysis is to move, but I am struggling with even being okay with quiet spaces and with my own thoughts.  People keep telling me to go easy on myself, to be gentle, to give it time... Yes, yes, that is well and good BUT don't you see?  If I go too easy on myself then I'm just going to give up, because that's sure as hell a lot easier than this "trying" shit.

I pray for dreams of him, and they do not come.
I pray for guidance from the gods, and either it does not come, or I am a poor receiver for it.

But I shouldn't say that.  I *have* had some omens, strong ones at that, that have brought me some peace.  I will write of those when I'm ready.

Some days are almost okay.  Some days are not.  So there it is.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Like a dream

I rediscovered this the night after my husband died... this poem that he had hand-written on a loose piece of paper, tucked away in a notebook by the bed. I didn't remember until now, that he had written it this last Anthesteria on Khoes.  

it is like a dream
you and I
when we are awake
when we are not speaking
when we are just loving
when you come just moments
    from my face
when we line up in arc
and in breaths
when i can hear your dress
kissing the gravel
when I want to climb back
     on the swing with you

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


My husband died this morning.  I'm a widow.  These are not metaphors.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mid-Anthesteria Post

I am in the middle of celebrating Anthesteria, and will post all about it, but I'm feeling delirious enough to post now.  I came down with some kind of nasty bug on Pithoigia morning.  I charged full steam ahead as much as I could, so now I'm feverish and drunk.  (Which beats being just feverish, I must say.)  It's been a lovely festival so far, even with the illness.  I hope I don't get much worse, because I would hate for it to hold me back in any way.  At the very least, that hyper-sensitive everything-hurts feeling keeps me constantly present.  (Looking on the bright side!)  AND I don't even need wine to be delirious!  Automatic altered state.  Nevertheless, wish me well...  Tommorow is Khoes, which I am both looking forward to and feeling intimitated about...  Full steam ahead!!!

Wish me well!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Small Epiphany

I was driving and thinking about Joseph Campbell's maxim of "follow your bliss."  (Since college, I've been very fond of Campbell and his work.)  It was an online conversation that led me to back to it, and I found myself imagining how I'd explain sources of bliss in my life.  I would say, it's twofold: experiencing life, union and communion with my lover/husband/soulmate AND worshipping and experiencing communion with the gods and everything that entails, the mysticism and devotion to Them.  And it hit me.

These things ARE my bliss.

You see, I'd always interpreted a subtext to "follow your bliss".  Namely, that one should be able to turn one's bliss into a vocation, and that is what you should do with your life.  That whatever you love or whatever fulfills you should be able to be transformed into a career.  I've never loved any job that I've had.  I went to college to try and figure it out and got a degree in General Arts because I didn't.  The job I have now I've had for nearly 10 years, because I'm good at it, it pays well and it helps people.  But I don't love it, and some days I don't even like it.  I've long thought myself as a little "lost" because I couldn't figure out how to reconcile what other people seem to be able to.

But in another time, my devotion to the gods COULD have been a vocation.  I could have served in a temple or been a priestess.  I would have done it in a heartbeat.

Like most epiphanies, this probably seems pretty ordinary and obvious to anyone else.  But it was a subtle shift in perception that makes me feel not just less "lost", but just a little more justified in taking what time I need to devote to the gods.  I don't know how to turn mysticism into a career, but I think I can figure out how to make it a priority in my life.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Last week was the Lenaia, and it took up nearly all of my days off, right up until another long work week.  Therefore I'm a little late writing about it!

Our Lenaia was rainy, almost the whole four days of it, unbelievably!  So that remains an important part of my memory of it.  The unexpected wetness of the desert.  The way that everything was more vivid, from the clean air to the way everything shines when wet.  On the last day of the Lenaia, it struck me how water itself is an important element of the festival.  It is the rain or snow that will allow the flowers to bloom on Anthesteria.  It is the nourishing element of the god, it is the water that we mix with the wine.  I don't usually temper my wine with water, but I always will on the Lenaia, because it seems right.
On the first day, my husband and I had a feast of local foods, and mostly just enjoyed food, wine and each other's company.  On the second, we went to see the play Equus put on by a small but talented theatre company.  I had seen other plays by this company before, so I knew that they were good and their performances were intimate and challenging.  But I hadn't seen Equus and was unfamiliar with anything except the most basic premise.  It turned out to be incredibly appropriate in its themes for a Dionysian festival (including questioning of what is normal, what is crazy, and the need for ecstatic states of consciousness.)  The horses were played by people in provocative bondage outfits with shaped-wire horse masks.  The narrator is a self-described pagan at heart and even mentioned Dionysos' name in the play.  It was intense and I absolutely loved it.  Did I mention we got to drink wine while watching the play too?  It was lovely.
I should mention that on the way to the play and home again, the ipod was on shuffle and was particularly synchronous.  Like, wow. 
We went home and I made all my preparations for my planned solitary ritual.  This ritual was significant for me for a few reasons, besides being my first serious observance of the Lenaia.  (Though I've done something simple the last two years, I'm only now getting a grasp on it.)  Since devoting myself to Dionysos, I had ended up rejecting a lot of the set ritual that I was used to, meaning the Wicca-influenced structure of circle casting, quarter calling, invoking, etc.  Not because I think it's wrong, but it ceased to speak to me, and it was more challenging, more Dionysian, to do things without structure, as spontaneously as possible.  However, I think ritual is important, and that ritual structure and symbolism speaks to our deeper self, and is often needed for important works and for communing with the gods. So I was trying to find a balance with these ideas, something that's structured but not too much, a ritual that is both Dionysian and speaks to me.  (Naturally, it's a work in progress and probably always will be.)  

Also, if you're not familiar with the Lenaia festival, read this excellent article by Sannion.  My comments illustrate some of my thoughts as I've researched the festival.  I also took inspiration from a dream I had on the Lenaia last year.

This is what I did...

I set up my wooden mask of Dionysos on a tall altar that was draped in cloth and decorated with ivy.  On the altar was also the libation cup, a bowl for wine and a bowl for water.  On the lower platform beneath it was a clay phallos in a basket, covered with a veil.  

I took a bath in candlelight, then entered my ritual space.  I blessed some spring water with breath and salt, and use a sprig of rosemary to asperge the space.  I lit all the candles around the room.  I let the incense fill the room.  I anointed myself with a perfume oil that reminds me of the god.

"With sacred waters, I cleanse this space for the god who comes."
"With sacred flame, I light this space for the god who comes."
"With sacred smoke, I prepare this space for the god who comes."
"With sacred oil, I anoint myself for the god who comes."

I take up my thyrsus, feel it's power, remember the times I've danced with it.  I call to mind a dream of mine, of a sacred garden with high walls covered in ivy.  I let this image meld with the room I'm in.  I call the ivy up as a protective barrier.

I ask the spirit of the Bull to be present, to guard the exterior.  I call the spirit of the Panther, intending to ask the same but instead I find myself inviting Panther in with me, to protect the interior.  Panther has been a companion in my dreams even before I began worshipping Dionysos.  It feels right.

I vibrate my chakras twice.  Once with my usual method with the Greek god names, and again with epithets of Dionysos.  Energy becomes more palpable now, and I direct all my movement, my energy and attention to the Mask.

I praise Zeus and Semele.  I praise the nymphs, and read them a hymn.

I speak to the Mask.  Some words of my own, then some borrowed...

 "Dionysos! The Mask embodies Your power more than that of any other God! No mortal dons Your mask, for Your power resides in the empty mask. Your eyes transfix us, steadier than any human gaze. We reply to Your face in the inmost depths of our souls. You confront us in Your paradox. Child of a God and a mortal, born of Heaven and Earth, uniter of opposites. Lord of Moist Nature, Born of Fire. You are the Primordial Force of Life, madly creating and destroying as You will! For Indestructible Life implies both birth and death. Your mask dramatically unifies illusion and reality. No body, nothing behind the surface: pure persona. Ephemeral shell. Absent, yet present. Appearing and disappearing. At once you are and are not...
"One part of you eternal, while the other part slumbers. Dionysos Masked and Dionysos Liknites. Behold the mask.  Behold the Liknon."

I take the Liknon.  I cradle it in silence, rocking it occasionally.  After a few moments, I whisper, "Now wake, my God! Hear my voice... know my devotion..."

I take up my gourd rattle, find a rhythm and chant over the Liknon... "Awaken, Son of Semele! Iakkhos, Iakkhos!"  Over and over.  My voice sometimes audible and sometimes inaudible.  There is no sense of energy being raised, as I intended.  Just the syllables and the rattle, again and again.  I persist.  And then the moment comes, unexpectedly in a sudden wave.  I unveil the Liknon.

"As promised, the god awakens! Hail Dionysos!  Hail Iakkhos!"

The wine is poured into the offering bowl... "The blood of the dismembered god, the sacrifice of the vine!"

The water is poured into the offering bowl... "The sweat and tears of the Lenai, the nymphs and the nursemaids."

I ladle out a cup, holding in up in a wordless moment, then drink.  And drink more.

At this point, I had intended to dance devotionally to a playlist of music.  But I hadn't had any time to create one.  Up until now, I didn't know if I was going to let it go random, or pick song by song.  I think back to earlier in the evening, when the music had been so synchronous, and I'm encouraged.  But anything could come up on that ipod... there's some weird stuff in those 3000+ tracks that would be off-putting, would definitely not be right, would not even be something I could dance to.  And IF I set it to random I would be committing myself to those songs, to the belief that they would be intended.  I couldn't change it after that, I would have to have faith and just go with it.  And with that thought, I know that's what I have to do.  

I asked Dionysos to choose, and I hit shuffle. 

Which is how I ended up dancing to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  And then "Decatur" by Sufjan Stevens.  And as the rest of the songs came up, I started realizing the way they all fit together, in mood and rhythm and flow.  These were not any gothic or rock songs.  These songs had a lighter touch, they were somewhat melancholy but with a touch of hope or whimsy, yet easy to dance to.  As I danced, I felt like the god was communicating not only an approval in my faith, in my willingness to relinquish control, but also communicating to me the mood of the festival itself.  And this was absolutely amazing to me.  I reciprocated this gift by dancing all my joy and love for Him.

These were the rest of the songs:

What's Wrong - Grizzly Bear
Kindness of Strangers - The American Analog Set
All My Days - Alexi Murdoch
Moonchild - M83
Deep Blue - Arcade Fire
I'm Not - Panda Bear
We Could Have Flown Like Pollen - ThouShaltNot

(One thing I jotted down post-ritual was "The god makes a better mix tape than I could."  Haha.)

The last two days were more mellow.  Friday was the day our pagan book discussion group meets.  The fact that we were celebrating Lenaia that weekend and that we would be absent next month due to the Anthesteria led me to trying to explain these festivals and what we do.  They seemed both surprised that I don't celebrate the sabbats anymore (with the exception of winter solstice, really) and interested in what we do and how enthusiastic we are.  I'm slowly becoming more open to family and acquaintances about the festivals we celebrate and that I worship Dionysos.  It's surprising how hard it can be to explain when I feel like I'm still figuring it out myself, but I've realized that that's okay.

On the last day of Lenaia, we had planned to go dancing at our favorite goth club, the place that has hosted some of my most significant moments of trance-dancing with Dionysos.  I was very sad to discover earlier in the day that the club has closed, presumably for good.  We looked for other options, but found no suitable ones. My husband passed out early, so I took a bottle of pinot noir for a night-time walk.  

The night was cloudy yet the full moon still peaked through now and then. I didn't even need a jacket, with the humidity.  I walked along the river wash, which is usually dry but was now wet, and visited the places that I knew we would return to on Anthesteria, imagining how they would be transforming in just a matter of weeks.  I looked into dark puddles of water and poured wine into them.  A coyote soundlessly crossed my path and I mentally acknowledged him and continued on.  No toads out, despite the rain... might be too early for them yet.  The raindrops glittered on the creosote branches.

Mostly I just listed to music and let everything sink in.  I thought about the water, as I mentioned before.  And I thought of how Lenaia is about awakening, and Anthesteria is about emerging.

I was tipsy when I got home, and I threw on a movie -- V for Vendetta.  It occurred to me partway in that I had picked a movie about a man in a mask without even thinking about it.  Figures!

It was a great festival this year, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves for me.  I feel Anthesteria approaching, too.  It's like a buzzing of energy, a sense of anticipation.   What has been awakened is stirring. 

Friday, January 25, 2013


Although I plan a more thorough post of my Lenaia celebrations, I am on a post-ritual high and tipsy and just feel like shouting "IAKKHOS, IAKKHOS!" and "Happy Lenaia!" and innumerous other praises of the god.  And yes, innumerous is not a word, until now... it means numinous and innumerable. 

Praise be to the god who comes...

Every ecstasy every time is an illumination, it never ceases to amaze me.  You, any You who read this, you sometimes don't know how powerful your intention is... You get what you give.  The god needs us and we need him.  It is.

I danced and danced for Him, and I will dance some more.  The Lenaia is not over yet, oh no.  

Happy dreaming!