Wednesday, November 2, 2022

You were there, in the labyrinth...

Stumbled across this song while stoned on my first batch of bhang that I made using cannabis leaves that my partner and I grew this year.  (For some reason that seems like an important detail.)  Although the song is called "You With Air", and that is the phrase being sampled, all I hear is "You were there, in the labyrinth..."  I'm going with it. 

The music video is very trippy. Esoptron/mirror vibes. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Holy Dread

I can’t recall this topic being written about elsewhere, but I’m really curious if others have experienced this phenomenon. As far as I know, I made up the term “holy dread”, but given my poor memory I could be wrong - so I hope someone will correct me if I’m mistaken, or let me know if there’s already another term for this out there! 

Holy dread is something that I first remember experiencing in 2014, although it’s possible it happened before that and it just wasn’t as dramatically on my radar. I had gone up to my sacred mountains, the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, to perform a ritual for Ariadne, Dionysos and the Mountain Mother. I wrote about the experience here, and back then I described feeling… “a temptation to distract myself with something innocuous, and underlying that… a bubbling up of something terrifying.” 

At the time, I wrote it off as a sort of grief-fueled existential crisis. But I just journaled about it and went ahead with the ritual as planned. 

The next year I went up again to repeat the observance, as I felt it had been quite powerful, especially doing it in the summer with the Corona Borealis overhead. I added to it a bit, and decided to invite the spirit of my husband to join in. (I also did some other work to connect with him before the main ritual.) 

 This time, the feeling of dread was SO strong leading up to it, that I remember recording a video of myself on my phone “just in case” I didn’t make it through to the other side of the ritual. I knew it was a silly thought, but I couldn’t shake it. That ritual turned out to be incredibly powerful - what I feel was an initiation and blessing from the gods upon me and my husband both. 

I will also usually feel holy dread during Anthesteria before my Khoes rites, and sometimes during other festivals like Lenaia. 

So how would I describe holy dread? It’s like a weighted sense of impending and inexplicable doom that directly precedes an important ritual, trial or spiritual work. The level of holy dread can sometimes be correlated with how powerful the ritual turns out to be, but not necessarily. The weight is lifted at some point once the ritual is started. (Or I would assume, if you chose to not go through with it- although I’ve never done that.) 

I’ve experienced holy dread for rituals both indoor in controlled circumstances and outdoors in nature. But it’s only ever been before rituals that have a strong ecstatic element and involve entheogens or altered states of consciousness. However, I don’t think it’s just the knowledge that I’ll be partaking of entheogens that causes the dread. The feeling is distinct from the sort of nervous butterflies or trepidation I’ve experienced before using psychedelics recreationally. It could be something to do with the ecstatic element - the knowing that I will be giving up some measure of control and putting myself in the hands of the gods and spirits.  

When I experienced it most recently a couple weeks ago, I was by now very acquainted with the feeling, but it STILL completely bowled me over. It was so pronounced, that I was genuinely concerned for my well-being.  That’s how intense it was. I kept thinking, what if this was actual intuition this time, warning me to stop? What if this was in fact a bad idea? Were the gods trying to tell me to stop before I even started? 

So of course, discernment comes in really handy here. In this case, I performed some divination and got the green light. I also recorded a video of myself on my phone again, which is weirdly soothing. It puts a light/mirror to your own fears, and it pacifies the thinking-mind to say things out loud and put it “on record”. 

Note: When I googled “holy dread”, I re-discovered that it’s a phrase in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”. It’s a poem I’ve been familiar with since my teenage years so perhaps that’s where my subconscious mind grabbed it from. Apparently it's also the title of an appropriately atmospheric track from The Fountain soundtrack (one of my favorite films) - so I figured I’ll share that here:

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

2022 Festival Calendar

Historically I've not been great at sticking to a festival calendar, with the exception of Lenaia and Anthesteria (those I've been observing consistently for over 10 years). It's helped in the past when a festival calendar has been shared with a community, but lately I've been wanting to settle on a calendar that only includes things that feel more personally meaningful. And indeed, some of these are ONLY meaningful to me. We'll see how this sticks, but now that I'm currently finishing up the last bit of work to complete my clinical herbalist program, I'm looking forward to having more time and energy for devotional work.

Having mirror festivals in October was based on a conversation with a friend/co-religionist in my tradition. We observed the parallels of Anthesteria with observances like Samhain, and they mentioned the idea of having another festival that mirrors Lenaia. I love this idea, and I'm thinking it might blend well into an Oschophoria-type observance. We'll see... this is not fully fleshed out yet. I suspect I'll be figuring it out as I go along.

2022 Festival Calendar

Jan 14 (sunset) - Jan 18th (sunset) - Lenaia

Feb 11 (sunset) - Feb 14th (sunset) - Anthesteria

March 12 (sunset) - March 20th (sunset) - City Dionysia

  • March 20th - Spring equinox: Bacchic Orphic Egg Hunt?

April 28-May 2nd (solar) - Floralia

May 4th - Alice Day

May 6-14th - Elevation Ceremony/Days of Remembrance for Anthony

June 2nd - Khariteia: Festival of the Graces

July 3rd - Dies Mortis of Jim Morrison

Near Full moon in July (13th) - Festival of Ariadne & the Mountain Mothers

Aug 8 - Day of the Beloved Trickster

Sept 21-23 - Festival of Orpheus: Poetry, prophecy, music, and honoring tradition

Oct 3-5 - Oschophoria / Mirror Lenaia:  Fire mysteries, honoring the last harvest, sacrifice, beginning the underworld descent

Oct 31-Nov 2 - Days of the Dead / Mirror Anthesteria

Nov 4th - Looking Glass Day

Nov 24th - Lampteria 

Dec 21st - Winter Solstice/Yule

Dec 22 - 31st - Festival of the Toys

Jan 1st - Kalends

I'm also assigning each month to some deeper work with each of the Toys of Dionysos, with my birth month reserved for the Agathos Daimon and December honoring all the Toys. Funny how Esoptron very naturally falls in October.

Jan: Sphaira

Feb: Astragaloi

Mar: Trochos

Apr: Rhombos

May: Strobilos

Jun: Krotala

Jul: Paignia

Aug: Pokos

Sep: Mela

Oct: Esoptron

Nov: The Agathos Daimon

Dec: All the Toys

Friday, January 29, 2021

When Theater Becomes Worship

I am in absolute awe of this production of The Bacchae performed by the Teatro Oficina in São Paulo, Brazil.  I can't recall if someone recommended it to me, or if I stumbled upon it, but it's been on my list to watch for over a year after watching an hour of it last year, and then I finally watched the whole thing over the most recent Lenaia.  (No mean feat, considering it's an epic 5 hours long - but totally worth it.) 

I can't imagine anything like this being performed in the U.S. It feels like the closest thing we could get to seeing how things might have been performed in Ancient Greece. Not because of the setting (most of it takes place in an building, albeit a really unconventional one), but because of the way it feels like devotional theater, like being part of a huge public ritual. There's nods to Brazil's Carnival tradition in the production, which only adds to it. But I can't imagine that these people were NOT overtaken with Dionysian ecstasy while doing this. And I can't imagine that anyone who wasn't in love with Dionysos would have gone through the effort of putting together something this madly ambitious.

Warning: Extremely NSFW.

I was able to dig up an article about the theater company, in case you were as curious as I was.  Now visiting this theater is a new travel goal of mine.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Activities for Lenaia

Lenaia falls on January 25-28th this year.  It will be my 11th year observing!  Here’s some ideas for celebrating and observing that I came up with for my students.

  • Watch Dionysian-themed movies and plays 

  • Mix wine with water for both drinking and offering (You could do this throughout the festival, although typically I only do it during my formal rites on the last day)

  • Set up a mask on a pillar to represent Dionysos - decorate with draping cloth, lights, ivy, etc - put an offering bowl in front of it to pour libations into

  • Say prayers to the nymphs, nurses, and Lenai/Maenads

  • Say prayers to Persephone and Semele who birthed Dionysos

  • Have a procession through nature and/or through your city - pour out offerings of wine onto the earth to find their way to the Underworld

  • Connect with the land spirits - ask for the their permission and help in calling forth Dionysos’ blessings to the land, and in preparing for Anthesteria

  • Visit a vineyard so that you can taste how Dionysos manifests in the grapes of your region - whisper prayers to the dormant grape vines while you're there

  • Make feast foods - give portions to the gods and spirits 

  • Play music

  • Ask Dionysos to speak to you through music and put your music on shuffle - dance to whatever comes up

  • Dance like you're seducing the god 

  • Dance like the spring depends on it

  • Rattle, blow a bull horn, swing a bull-roarer, ring bells, play drums

  • Call on Dionysos as "Iacchos" and "Son of Semele"

  • Get a wicker basket (Liknon), place symbols of fertility within it, and leave it veiled until the last day of the festival or your final rites

  • Stare into the eyes of the mask until you think you're going mad

  • Scry into a bowl of wine and water that’s been blessed

  • Make a mask

  • Make a thyrsos

  • Make devotional art

  • Weave an ivy crown to wear during the festival

  • Burn herbs, especially evergreens and resins and aromatics (pine, rosemary, copal, frankincense, myrrh, mint, juniper, citrus peel, sage)

  • Pay attention to omens and messages in nature, music, everyday life

  • Draw the Greek delta symbol (a triangle) in snow, in chalk, in the earth, etc as a gateway through which Dionysos will emerge come Anthesteria (borrowed from Sannion)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Mirrors within mirrors

That about sums it up...

Dionysos, I am the aching wound that welcomes your violence.

     [scribbled notes from ekstasis, 4.24.20]