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.