D – Dreaming Dionysos (PBP week 8)

I knew Him first as Meilikhios, though I didn’t have that name to give Him.  He came in a dream when I was a girl of thirteen, on the edge of womanhood.  A handsome dark haired youth with an enticing, comforting presence, flaming an ardent desire to experience all that life had to offer – be it joy or grief, ecstasy or terror.  A hopeless romantic, as many girls of thirteen are, I had imagined that I dreamt my soul-mate, and was certain that one day I would meet Him.

(I did eventually meet my soul-mate many years later – a blond haired, blue eyed Irishman who loves to laugh, whose handsome face is lined with all the cares of a life time.  He is responsible for those precious moments of happiness that would shine through in even the darkest times.)

Then, along with puberty, came the depression and all the years fluctuating between nothingness and despair.  I had forgotten Him somewhere in the midst of that.  As a young woman I fell in love with Jim Morrison and his Dionysian dream.  I felt Neitzche speak to me.  But even though I left the church of my youth and embraced paganism whole heartedly, I had forgotten what I once knew as the child who wanted to run with Artemis:  that the Gods of Greece were real.  They were alive and to be adored.

I can’t say if He was with me through those years.  I remember moments of connection breaking through the veil of medicated nothingness, but I didn’t know who or what I was connecting with.  Sometimes I imagined it to be the Christian God; others times, the God of Wicca.  It depended on where my attempts at faith had lead me.  I might have been correct in my imaginings.  I certainly bear no ill will towards those entities and can easily picture one or both of Them reaching out to someone who sincerely sought Their guidance.

I like to think He was there, though – watching, guiding.  Perhaps living in the madness itself.

Many, many years later I did remember.  I remembered my early love of the Theoi.  I remembered wishing so desperately that it was still OK to worship them.

Then all it took was reading His name, and it all came rushing back.  Connections and connections and connections.  Even that long forgotten dream.

It has not been easy these last several years.  I have had glimpses of His other faces.  It is almost a cliché that when Dionysos comes into your life, He tears you apart and strips you to the bone, thus making room for that which you might become.

He has shown me the depths of my own madness, the depression, and I looked it in the face, and knew that I was stronger than it.

This work, though never complete, has reached a point of balance.

I sense a new phase of my relationship with Him is on the horizon.  I don’t know what form it will take, but I look forward with eagerness and dread.

When real life collides head on with the important stuff…

Nothing like a job interview at 9AM the morning after a night of sacred revelry to make a girl feel really at her best.

I was going to try to imbibe moderately last night, you know – just enough to be polite.  Yeah….  right.  One doesn’t worship Dionysos moderately.  One worships Him with everything they are.

Still, He took good care of me.  The hangover was very mild, and unnoticeable at the interview.  I think it went well.

Tonight is… problematic.  We have social obligations that can’t be cancelled and do not mesh well with the spirit of the day.  Thinking of dining with guests then supping with Orestes after.  After that, the park – dolls and swinging for Erigone, and then the crazy sex.

We have the best holidays.  Even the really disturbing ones.  No, especially the really disturbing ones…

As for the job interview, that’s now in the hands of the Gods – which is really the best place for it to be.

D – Depression and Devotion (PBP week 7)

First, I’d like to be clear that the following is addressing my own personal experiences with depression and isn’t meant to speak for anyone else.  (I’d think this should be a given, as it’s written in a personal blog, but one never knows.)

Anne-Louis Girodet, Erigone

The God I follow is, among other things, a God of Madness.  This is appropriate, as I am mad.

Not the I’ve-got-a-hatchet-and-I’m-going-to-kill-my-family-in-their-sleep sort of mad, nor the shouting-on-the-street-corner-about-what-the-voices-told-me-last-night sort of mad.  I’m definitely not the Hollywood-charming-Benny-and-Joon-isn’t-mental-illness-funny sort of mad.  I’m not even Mad Hatter mad or running-through-the-wilderness-tearing-small-animals-to-bits-with-my-bare-hands mad.  At least not all the time, anyway.

(I wish I was Hatter mad.  I really like that phrase.)

My madness is the madness of Erigone.  It can be a despair so total, so soul deep that it blots out all the beautiful things in life.  Other times, it is the simple inability to feel joy, to feel much at all.  Erigone knew the love of a God, and yet her father’s death made her despair so completely that she could not see any good in life.  (Erigone has been on my mind lately, I’ll return to her in more detail in a later post.)

I like to think of my depression as a madness.  Others might prefer the modern, clinical, less stigmatized, terms  “mental illness” or “mood disorder.”  I find comfort in the epic, mythicness of simple “madness.”  It is a vast thing, not to be contained within something as mundane as the DSM.  There is romance in the term.  Depression is crippling and painful – not romantic in the same sense that war is not glorious – but its nature is, in my experience, better suited to this language than the coldly clinical.

Depression is a tricky madness.  It can be patient.  You’ll think you’re doing okay, getting along fine, and then suddenly – WHAM!  Oh, yeah, I’m crazy.  I forgot.

Like many other forms of madness, depression is insidious.  It doesn’t just torment its host, but gets its hook into everyone near them.  And, like a living organism, it has a remarkable instinct for self-preservation.  Anything that would help rid the host of it – medication, therapy, reason, love, faith – is pushed aside as useless, irrelevant or – my favorite – selfish.  (“I don’t have the right to ask my family for comfort.  I’m too much of a burden already…”)

I never turn to my Gods less than when I need Them the most.

And yet my God is a God of Madness.  He has suffered Himself, He understands.

One of the first things that Dionysos asked of me when we became acquainted was to stop taking my anti-depressants.  (If that doesn’t set off alarm bells in your mind as you read this, you’ve never known a mad person.  Or anyone with mental illness or a mood disorder.  Just saying’.)

I did this with the full, if anxious, support of my partner.  I’d been wanting to stop them for awhile, I’d been on the same meds for many years and had never been entirely happy with how they worked.  When I stopped taking them, after the initial withdrawal period, everything was fine.  I didn’t notice much of a difference at all.

I believed Dionysos encouraged my stopping the meds because I didn’t need them.  Maybe I had been misdiagnosed all those years ago.

Heh.

Everything was going along fine for several months, then slowly, insidiously, the depression started to awaken.  The madness crept in.  First, problems at work:  I was unhappy there and was sure no one liked me.  Then, a growing number of fights with my partner.  Lying alone, crying in the back of a car because I knew I was making life a living hell for my loved ones and I didn’t want to hurt them anymore.  Taint them with my madness.

And all this time, not turning to the Gods, not turning to Dionysos, though I kept Him in mind, knew He understood.  Surely he didn’t want this?  I wanted to be able to give him anything, but my family had no such agreement.

It was their pain, especially my husband’s (yes, I got married in the middle of all this,) that finally drove me to the therapist.  And back to medication – the right medications this time.

(Every time I’d gone to a new doctor before and I’d tell them what I was taking, they’d ask me how it worked.  “Well, OK I guess.  I don’t feel like killing myself, anyway” was a good enough answer for them and they’d just prescribe more of the same.  Anyone going through something similar – please, for the love of all that is holy, stand up for yourself!  There are a lot of options out there, one of them will work for you.)

After a lot of work – and medication, therapy, reason, love, and faith – I’ve got a good handle on my madness.  MY madness.  As in it is mine, whether I want it or not, I am not its.

And there was Dionysos, on the other side, saying “Now you know what madness is.  You know the power of it.  And you know you’re bigger than it is.  So enough with this helplessness, then.  Let’s get started.”

C – Search for Community (PBP week 6)

I don’t miss a lot about my days as a Christian, to be honest.

OK yeah, they do get all the great music.  (Seriously:  Gregorian chant, Schubert’s Ave Maria, U2 – I am covetous.)

But the one thing I really do miss (’cause it’s not like I don’t listen to U2 everyday anyway) is being part of a community of worshipers.

While the church I belonged to would have dismissed all that great music as not Christian, two being Catholic and one *shudder* rock and roll and, what’s worse, politically liberal, (this was a crowd that found Amy Grant questionable,) there really was a strong sense of brotherhood among its members.  And it felt good to be part of that.

Some pagan faiths have a built in community.  Wicca, being coven centered, certainly has this potential.  So do some of the Druid organizations, like ADF – at least for those living in areas with a large enough pagan population.  Those of us who live in small rural communities are often solitary by necessity.

The internet has done a lot to soften this isolation, sometimes providing a way to bring people together in the real world ( a la Witchvox), but more often it is a source of online communities and support.

If we want shared worship and don’t have our own coven or grove to turn to, the options are slim.  We can attend large public gatherings like Pantheacon or small ones like those provided by local ADF groves.  The Unitarian Universalist church has a pagan group, CUUPS.

So far, none of these has proven to be the right answer for me, but I’m still looking and open to suggestions.

Do you feel the need for religious community?  Is it something readily available within your faith?  If not, how do you satisfy that need?

C – Embracing the Cacophony (PBP week 5)

Albrecht Durer “Bacchanal with Silenus”

“Bellowing, shrill-sounding instruments accompany him; we often see them pictured in sculpture.  A series of mythic stories and descriptions make us keenly aware of the overpowering spirit of the Dionysiac din which makes its violent entry as it captivates and inspires dread at one and the same time.”

This passage from Walter Otto’s Dionysus Myth and Cult (p. 93) worries me.  Or, rather, the obvious truth he’s describing worries me.  I fear that if I can’t embrace this cacophony, the “Dionysiac din,” maybe I’m not fit to worship Dionysos.

There are some kinds of chaos that I love, even thrive in.  I’ve always preferred wilderness to topiary, and a the entropy of certain sort of overgrown garden-gone-wild to both.  I love the sound of an orchestra tuning and the bizarre flow of intoxicated conversation.  Creatively, such things as random splashes of spilt paint or a jumbled mess of fabrics have inspired much of my best work.

Pandemonium – that particular sort of living human chaos – appeals to me intellectually and emotionally, but in reality I find it almost physically painful.

It’s the sound you see.

I’ve always been sensitive to loud noise.  Unless it’s something structured, like music, I can’t bear it.  And conflicting sources of noise – say the television, video game music, and someone trying to talk to me all at once – can send me into an anxiety attack.

With all that noise, I can’t think.

I can’t think.

When one can’t think, isn’t the only option shutting off the mind and live fully in the body?

Maybe I can get a handle on this after all.