Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dieting for Dionysians

It's occurred to me more than once that the diet that I follow might appeal to other Dionysians for several reasons, so I'll briefly share it here in case anyone finds it useful.  I've been doing this on and off (mostly on) for the past year and I can see myself sticking with it indefinitely.
I've been doing what's called intermittent modified fasting or 5:2.  The idea is to pick 2 non-consecutive days of the week in which you'll have a very limited amount of calories (500 if you're a woman, 600 if you're a man).  On the other 5 days out of the week you eat without any restrictions -- whatever you want and however much you want.
What conventional benefits does this offer? 
--Pretty steady weight loss, if you have extra weight to lose. 
--Reduces your risk of age-related diseases.
--Speaking from my own experience, an immune system of steel.  In spite of this last year being the most stressful and terrible of my life, I haven't gotten sick with a cold or flu once.  Short periods of fasting allows your body to go into repair mode.
Why do I think this would appeal to Dionysians? 
--Because we thrive on periods of excess, which would make any other diet pretty much impossible.  I don't know about you, but I drink a lot of wine, and at best your conventional diets will allow a glass of wine with dinner. 
--If you follow a very devotional path or perform serious ritual or trance then you probably are no stranger to fasting anyway.  I do things in bursts.  A day of fasting or modified fasting is a short burst of will-power.  It seems incredibly easy and natural to me. 
--The ease in which this would accommodate any other dietary restrictions, taboos, etc, since it's based not on TYPE of food, but calories.  To even call this a diet feels misleading--it's more like you're rearranging WHEN you eat instead of WHAT you eat.
--Flexibility. You choose 2 days out of the week to do this, and it doesn't have to be the same days every week. Arrange it on or around your devotional days, festivals, or social activities as you see fit.
--Knowing and owning your body. Dealing with moderate periods of hunger puts you in touch with your body.  Having control over your weight is liberating.  You get a clearer sense of how food and lack of food affects your consciousness and energy.
--Did I mention you can still drink a lot of wine?  I usually schedule my "fast" days on my work days when I'm not drinking anyway.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Elevation & Rumination

I wanted to write a little bit about the elevation ritual I performed for my husband between Feb 1st and 9th. I wanted it to be during a waxing moon which is one reason it nestled up so close to Anthesteria and I haven't had a chance to write about it until now.

This is just one of the things I learned about while taking Galina Krasskova's course on ancestor work.  The lessons were a big help for me in getting started honoring the dead and I highly recommend the class if that is something you are interested in. Ancestor elevation is something you can do if you think a particular soul is troubled or distressed, but can also just be done to send them love and energy for peace and well-being. 

My desire to do this came after my birthday in November, when I'd had an incredibly vivid, lucid dream of my husband telling me, among other things, that he was sad and lonely. Whether this was a projection of my fears or not, I felt compelled to do this for him. At best, it would help his soul heal. At worst, it would just be an big showy display of how much I care about him, and there's certainly no harm in that.

Because the altar needed to be left out on the floor for 9 days in a row I actually set it up in a walk-in closet.  My brother's cat has been an absolute terror lately and I didn't trust him to not desecrate it.  Although this was done for practical reasons, I rather liked "opening the door" at the start of each night's ritual. Sitting on one side of a doorway and having his altar be on the "other side" later struck me as very symbolic.  This is what it looked like:


I can't really describe how soothing it was to me to look at this altar with all the white and the flowers.  I hope he found it as comforting as I did.  More than once, I would open that door and sit down to perform the ritual and I felt a very profound timelessness, a feeling as if I had been doing this same ritual not just for a few days, but for months... or always.

I said prayers to Dionysos, Ariadne and Arianrhod, each ending this prayer with "I entreat you to open the ways of blessings between myself and my beloved... Protect Him and keep him in your realm, and if he becomes lost or sorrowful, remind him of your mysteries, and your love, and the love of those who still remember him." I modified the prayers for the elevation very slightly, and called to spirits, ancestors and guardians who were special to him or watched over him, both particular ones I knew and any in general who wished to help.

I also added a prayer that was a blend of several of the prayers and instructions in the Orphic gold tablets.  (I've been reading a book about them - Ritual Texts for the Afterlife by Fritz Graf & Sarah Iles Johnston -- and I find them to be powerful and beautiful.)

Every day I tried to have a special food or drink offering.  The first night it was a specialty beer that I'd bought before he died and wanted to share with him.  Another night it was special chocolates I'd found, one with honeycomb and the other with mushrooms.  On another it would be a donut and Dr. Pepper (favorites of his).  Twice, it was a full meal.

Another offering, perhaps the most significant, was music.  I played all the records of our favorite band.  And yes, actual records, most of which are rare and were painstakingly acquired by us during the time we were together. This act of offering the music was actually really really hard for me.  We used to lay down together and just bask in these songs, and even in those most exquisite moments, the beauty of it would threaten to overwhelm us.  In fact it is so personal, so deeply and achingly *resonant* to the beauty of our relationship, that I almost don't even wish to share the name of the band.  Like I wrote during Anthesteria, music is a pathway, and this pathway happens to wind through the most intimate and precious parts of my soul and memory.  That we both adored this music, could find the eternity in it, was a metaphor for our love of each other, for the miraculousness of finding one another.

Each day I did the ritual it felt a little different.  Some days were more emotional than others. I can't say there was exactly a progression that I felt.  In fact, if I had to make such a judgment, I'd say that things sort of culminated somewhere in the middle -- at a point where I could actually feel myself being a conduit of the blessings bestowed by the spirits around me.  The energy flowed into me and then through my heart chakra and towards my husband, or at least my focal point on the altar for him.

Although I didn't consciously plan for it to happen this way, the urn that I had had custom painted for him arrived on the 6th or 7th day. So as part of the last night's ritual I transferred his ashes into the urn. I was glad to have this gift for him.

I had asked for certain specifications with the urn but how it turned out was a total surprise.  I burst into tears when I first saw it because it was so perfect.

Some footnotes to this... There have been a lot of things before and since the elevation ritual that have been significant to my grief process and mourning.  I don't know if I could possibly list them all.  Major ones include getting a couple tattoos with his ashes last month, which didn't involve as much physical pain as I feared and hoped for.  Anthesteria was somehow both a blessing and a trial.  There were loud and clear messages of hope from Dionysos, but I felt my husband's absence more than ever.  I put my whole heart into the festival, and my heart felt the stress of it.  A friend's divination told me it's time to come out of mourning, so of course I rebelled and fell into another pit of despair, or a "spiritual temper tantrum" as I've taken to calling them (since I know better than to despair and it's really just the same emotional riffs to the key of I can't/I won't/I don't want/I will never...)  But I came out of that dark place quicker than usual. I found a book I was obviously meant to find that put things into perspective while at the same time one of my best friends had a vision that reiterated the same perspective/message for me.

In short, I have to move forward.  That was another thing given to me during the Aiora, while walking the labyrinth.  We have this idea in life of an infinite number of paths to take and sometimes that freezes us into a state of panic and indecision.  But there's only one choice of action in the labyrinth.  You walk or you stand still.  The path is already there, whether you perceive the pattern or not, whether you have faith in it or not.  And I think that's truer to life than we know.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


When I wake up, I dress in black and make some food for the dead…

I cooked up 8 different grains and beans that were in my pantry, and added some raw milk and raw honey.

I meditated for a bit, opened my last bottle of wine, and headed for the cemetery.  While driving there, my thoughts were going in circles, revisiting the night before, the past and the future, what I know and what I don’t know and all the sore spots in between, and I brought myself to tears several times before I even got there.  

I left my crown of creosote that I’d made the day before in the central tree of the cemetery, then made a wide circuit, pouring out wine and water as I went, murmuring soft greetings to the graves I passed.  A small detail struck me more than usual this trip -- the way that people buy joint gravestones or plaques and have their names on there but leave the year of their death blank in the meantime.  How strange this seems to me, these blank spots, just waiting for the person’s number to come up.  Practical, yes. Still, absurd.

The weather from Pithoigia to Khoes got suddenly warm (go figure!) and the weather today was also very nice -- as in, no jacket needed and I was quite comfortable in sandals.  I stumbled upon one rather curious bench that was not dedicated to any particular person, but simply to love.

After pouring out the porridge beneath a hedgerow, I burned and sprinkled tobacco, and burned incense.  I did another EVP session, as my husband and I had done on Khutroi two years ago.  I listened to it straightaway, but didn’t pick up anything.  I really have no idea if only those who haven’t crossed over yet can communicate in such a way. My husband and I would wonder about this, but besides him I’ve never met any pagan paranormal enthusiasts who could debate this topic with me. (I also wonder, can you theoretically capture EVPs of other spirits? Gods?)  If nothing else, the session got me talking out loud and into a receptive state.

I said a couple hymns to Hermes, left some coins at a hedge boundary.  I felt a sudden fondness for Hermes, perhaps because His trickster nature reminds me so much of my husband. (Which would come up later, too.)

I continued my circuit of the cemetery after that, picked up debris and poured out more offerings.  The sunset was very pretty and by that time I had the whole place to myself.  But it hit me as I looked around from the center of the cemetery to the hundred and hundreds of graves spreading around me, most with their own bunches of imitation flowers… No, I didn’t have the place to myself.

On my way home I stopped at my dad’s band rehearsal.  I had declined the invitation initially, because of Anthesteria, but suddenly I knew I needed the company and the experience.  I love that my dad is in a band.  Playing in a band is how he met my mom, back in the day.  Also, that’s where I get my excellent taste in music, in case you were wondering.  I had a really nice time, and felt much inspired to pick up my own musical pursuits again.  (Did I mention they did a Doors’ song too?  Yeah, they rocked.)

Back at home, I sat at my Anthesteria shrine again, and did one more thing… I listened to that EVP session from two years ago.

I had never listened to it before.

We had always meant to.  It just never happened.  And then he died, and I didn’t feel like I could. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it up to and through Anthesteria… but if I did, I knew that this would probably be a good time to listen to it.  

And, it was okay.  No spirit voices, unless you count my husband’s coming back to me through the years.  It was nice to hear his voice. Not as painful as I expected, just nice.  He had said this spontaneous prayer to Hermes, and while I was listening to it, it just hit home… how devout and spiritual he was. And I don’t think many people saw that side of him, because of how intensely personal it was to him.  But we were lucky enough to share that with each other.  And listening to him, I thought, surely the gods and his guides would take care of this soul! This soul who loved them and just plain fucking LOVED so much.

I transcribed it, word for word, this part of the that session that turned into an impromptu praise of Hermes:

Hermes Khthonios, I give praise and honor to you today.
Remember us.
Remember us remembering you, and our praise of you,
And our praise is Love.
I've recognized your work in my life,
I've been the receiver of your casual gifts.
You've changed the way I look at things.
I've always appreciated your luck,
I've always appreciated you gambling on me, and with me.
Anyone with a mind that is of the gambler's mind,
they know that they deal with ill fortune just as much as they do good fortune--
it comes with the territory.
Thank you for all the small things that have reminded me
that luck is a two sided coin
and pain doesn't last forever.
Praise be to Hermes!”

Well I got through the session without weeping, but not writing about it without weeping. Oh my beautiful poet.

And how strange to hear his voice say that death will come to all of us soon enough, as he talked to the dead.

Then this girl with the still-beating heart banished the Keres and hung up creosote branches in the doorways.  And now I’m going to go take a cleansing bath.

Just love, little flowers, just love.

Khoes & Aiora (A True Story In Poetry)

I weave in silence.
Purple string and sticks for the Hanging Girl,
Her sorrow is mine. God, it hurts so… the whole hopeless stretch,
one tragedy after the next, knots and hopes like crushed fruit,
screams to the heavens in the weary winding circle,
around and around, fiber to finger to form,
a head and a torso, a lasso and a name,
Oh Erigone, I never knew, I never knew.

We swing with particular passion, we graveyard girls…
Always towards the moon,
except on the downturn.

I enter the labyrinth again, wine on my lips.
It’s a choice, you see, one path or no--
You walk or you don’t.
My heart skips--
I’m already remembering the future, when I trip
on a snake...

Memory in the lake,
My yearning meets your ache.
In the ivy, oh in the ivy!
we conjure shimmering syllables, coming together
in Your cavernous name.

I am a cup overpouring, wine and blood and tears,
What all Art hopes to hint at, I stare straight in the face.
There are layers in your mask, whiskers on my cheeks,
How pantherine...
petals dilate, my eyes bloom.
You laugh.  I weep.
The music plays for keeps, landscapes and leaps.
I am the metronome of this piece.

The god in the shed. I remember my death.
In these games we play, he lets me win,
just by a breath.

Silly maenad, dear...
You’ve given away your heart to a God beyond time,
Even in your most quiet moments, you are lightning-lost
Even in your motionless moments, you
are already terribly vine-tangling mad,
suckling the sacred at your teat,
blood on your flowering honeypetal hands,
the shadows of the deepest wood in your cradlegrave eyes,
wildness in your wishes, lullabies in your limbs,
all of this, never in stillness,
both heart and heartless.
(you are my favorite braveness.)

My love, you asked for this epiphany.
I did?
This is the work of Memory.
I do.
This is the Truth.
For you.

My life is a single bloom.

I’m back to walking the labyrinth again, the circuits turn at each star,
Of course Ariadne hanged herself -- of course she did!
Surrender. Choice. Surrender. Choice.
To the tree,
to your fate,
and to all its terrible gravity,
You must choose to surrender--
Sorrow is just another sort of ecstasy.


ETA notes scribbled down in ekstasis:

"I need you to trust that your suffering is important and it's all for a reason."

"I let you see it sometimes - the whole picture. So you remember to dance, so you remember to laugh."

We are amplifying the Gods.


Leading up to Anthesteria I was very emotional and filled with uneasy anticipation.

After setting up the festival altar and doing some opening ritual, I head back to the mountains I visited on Lenaia, drinking wine as I hike.  It could not have been a more beautiful day.  Cool but not yet warm, with a slight breeze, clear skies.  It is not yet the riot of flowers I was hoping for, but there are hints here and there.  So small and unassuming, you might not notice them at all if you were weren’t looking.

I see a patch of wildflowers that have yet to bloom, the sunlight hitting them in a particularly glowing way.  I wonder at the force which brings them up from underground, and I hear, “I will bring you up from underground, too.”  My eyes fill with tears. I drink more wine.

Shouldn’t things seem more real, out here, outdoors in the sun and in nature?  Things seem slightly out of focus, slightly unreal, even if I stop and take a moment, the feeling intensifies. I’ve noticed this before, but never quite verbalized it to myself.  It’s as if the whole scene, from the details of the tiniest weed to the stretch of mountains before me, is a shimmering mask.   I’m reminded of my birthday in 2011 where everything was so incredibly real and unreal at the same time (the vibration beneath things, as I phrased it then), although I’ve had little wine at this point and nothing else mind-altering.  If I let it, this realization could be a bit terrifying, in a whole “If this isn’t real then what is?” sort of way.  I suppose I’m used to it, but I wonder if this is a common experience… (Maybe my Khoes experience from tomorrow is echoing backwards.  That happens sometimes.)

I gather creosote while I’m out, and once I’m home I scatter all the branches onto the festival shrine, and it all smells like rain and loveliness...

Continuing my tradition of creative endeavors on Pithoigia, but deviating from the usual mask-making, I did some painting with cheap acrylics.  Nothing special, but I had fun doing them while drinking and listening to music.

Lovingly titled, respectively, “The God with Marigold Eyes” and “Fuck, There’s a Flower in My Snake Garden”.

I should mention, that I actually FOR ONCE got my playlists in order before festival hit. So that was nice (and when it came to Khoes, absolutely essential to that experience).

I love feast day food.  I had gone to the farmers’ market and gotten organic produce, homemade bread and hummus, even edible flowers!  The only time I make lamb is on Anthesteria, and so that was also part of the feast, slow cooked in wine and honey with root vegetables and fresh herbs.

In the late evening I watched an Eddie Izzard DVD I’d never seen before, and laughed quite a lot.

I forgot to take a picture of all my wine bottles before they were spent, but here’s a picture of what it looked like later…  Two were local ones (Page Springs and Tombstone), one was from Greece and had flowers on the label, and one was called Cult.  Yeah, I just liked the name.  Also this is the order I drank them in, because I’m weird and that seems important.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This is my gift to you...

Listen to this song...  In the dark... Close your eyes....

A maenad's heart has travelled through the landscapes of it, and through it I reach out to you...

Do you feel me yet?  I feel you...  Your desires, your hopes and fears, meeting in the spaces between.
Music is just a pathway, and if you're listening, then I'm walking with you.

The beast in me bows to the beast in you.  

You are beautiful, and He wants you to know that you are Loved.  As you are.  Little flower.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

More esoteric questions have been on my mind, as I look towards Anthesteria

If dreams can be just as vivid as life, what does that say about death? 

Is experience more important than memory? 

While planning for Anthesteria I was looking back at my first observation of the festival in 2011, where I had mentioned being grateful for having written down what I could of my experience of Khoës. I had totally forgotten the existence of these notes, so I went looking for them and found them. I had not only forgotten the notes themselves, but forgotten the details of the experience as well. I suppose at the time I had it in my head as the experience being too intimate or revealing for a public blog. But what the hell. Life is short, hopefully shorter for me. Lately I've been feeling like a circuit with too much input and no output. So I'm going to try to put out more. (Ha.) 

Khoës Night 2011: 
Dionysos mask. [Intoxication.] I called the god as my lover and husband. I made love to him. Madness and consciousness became a perception of space and proximity. Time slowed to nothing. Sex and death and madness were intertwined. But even as I thought of describing it that way as it happened, I knew that was a pale, pale description for what I was feeling. To say I made love with my death comes close to the feeling but it isn't complete either. I wept, not out of sadness but out of epiphany. In that space there was not "good" or "bad", "happiness" or "sorrow", there was just the knowledge in the vehicle of sensation, caressing my body. The vastness! Being my Self and being with the God in the Vastness was Truer. As I thought of my life, of A------, of my home and work and family, they all seemed so bizarre in their specifics and limitations. Sunbathing in the music. Narcissus in the mirror. Eyes reflecting silver, seeing my own beauty and the stranger within. Dancing, dancing, in and out of space. Tarot cards on the bed. Shuffling chaotically to the music. Queen of Swords flips first... Temperance is there. A King. The Hanged Man, last.