Um, Silent July, August, and most of June…

So, I really had no intention of going silent for July.  Or August for that matter.  (Not that I don’t understand and respect the reasoning of those who did.)

I just sorta stopped being interested in blogging for awhile.

I’d like to think I was “doing stuff” instead of “writing about doing stuff,” and that was definitely part of it.  To  be perfectly honest though, it’s not like I was so busy with devotional practice and art I couldn’t slip a post in here and there.  I just didn’t have much to say I guess.

I decided to quit doing the Pagan Blog Project because, while I love it and enjoy seeing the posts everyone comes up with, I found myself feeling pressured to write just for the sake of having written.  (Also, when you’re in the middle of a ritual and find yourself thinking about just how you’ll word the description of the experience, it’s probably time to take a break from the internets…)

So, what have I been doing instead?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve set up an altar to my ancestors and beloved dead.  At this point, I’ve yet to really begin regular offerings, but it’s good to have the constant reminder that they’re there.  I’ve found myself talking to them more often as a result, which has got to be a good thing.

Continuing my daily prayers and offerings.

I’ve also been doing art, devotional and otherwise.  I’m quite proud of the mask I made for Dionysos.

Also been doing regular life things like holding down a job and taking care of  a sick puppy.

Still, I like having the blogs.  I’m going to try to find a happy medium between never posting and never doing anything else because  I’m focused on writing about it.

Any suggestions?

Another Day in Another Life…

Previous incarnation of Dionysos’ shrine, since simplified (and expanded)

There seems to be a new trend in the pagan blogosphere of sharing what one’s daily devotions look like.  I like it.  (Plus, it’s far healthier than the other bandwagons I’ve jumped on lately.)

Many who have shared are hardcore mystics and spirit workers.  My practice is much simpler than theirs, though I wouldn’t quite call myself a lay person – I feel called to a much more involved practice, but I am only just beginning on my path.  (Despite 20+ years of paganism!)

So here’s what my day looks like right now, religiously:

I wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee and check out my blog roll.  Often this means I’ll quickly find myself bogged down in the pagan dramas of the day.  To avoid this, I try to pick one or two things to read that look inspiring or at least interesting.

(After all, I can always pop me some popcorn and read the train wreck later if I really want to.)

Once I’m fully awake I shower or – depending on the occasion and need – at least wash my face and hands.  Then I dress in my normal clothes for the day, gather my offerings and go to Dionysos’ shrine.  I’ll take a minute to prepare the shrine – tidying up, putting incense in place, lighting the candle – then I step away.

Then its time to get my head in order.  I’ll go over any prayer I intend to recite in my mind, then let it go.  I focus my thoughts I Dionysos alone.  When I feel ready, I approach the shrine (a processional of maybe 4 steps, but it is effective) and raise my arms in prayer.

I am not a poet.  I begin by reciting a written prayer, usually Orphic hymn #30, but others – ancient or modern – as I feel inspired to.  (If I make a mistake in the recital, I will step away from the shrine and begin again, unless the spirit draws me onrward.)

Then I offer thanks.  I do this in my own words.  I thank Him for the many blessings He bestows on the world and upon myself, and for specific gifts and blessings as appropriate.  I asking Him to accept my offerings, and with them my love and gratitude.

For offerings, in the morning I always offer incense.  I will add to this as inspired – most often wine, of course, but other items as well.  They are usually pretty traditional.

After I make the offerings, I speak to Him from my heart, offering praise and sometimes discussing my concerns of the moment – though I usually leave those for less formal prayers throughout the day.

I like to chose and epithet of His and spend a few moments in meditation on it.  It will stay with me throughout the day, keeping my thoughts with Him.  (I haven’t been doing this part as much as I’d like of late, though.)

I offer praise a final time and leave the shrine (backing away the first few steps as I believe it is rude to turn one’s back on a God.)

If it is a morning where I will have to leave for work right away, I will return and blow out the candle immediately.  Otherwise I leave it burning at least until the incense is done.

Then I finish my mundane rituals for the morning – make up, shoes, occasionally even breakfast – and spend some time with my family.

Before I leave for work (or on days off, immediately following my time with Dionysos) I approach my hearth shrine – the one in the public portion of the house – tidy it, light the candle, and make sure offerings are in reach.

Then I step away again and focus my thoughts on the Gods.

I return to the shrine and pray, using some variation of the following (my own, pardon the plainness):

I pray to Hestia, the great Goddess of the Hearth and Home

I pray to the household Gods and the Agathos Daimon

I pray to the Theoi who dwell on Olympus, greatest Gods of all

I thank You for another day, and for the many blessings you bestow upon the world and upon myself and my family

I will add my thanks for specific blessings as appropriate.

I then ask Them to accept my offerings, always incense and pure water* but often other things as well – olive oil, herbs, essential oils.

I pray that They will watch over, bless, and protect myself, my family, and our home on that day and the days to come.

Then I will offer praise to them, and back away from the shrine.  (Returning to blow out the candle immediately if I am leaving right away.)

Throughout the day, I will offer informal prayers to the Gods as inspired, often speaking to Dionysos rather casually about my thoughts and concerns or simply that might be of interest to Him.  I try to be open to His (and Their) presence in the world, though the challenges of modern life make this easier said than done.

When I visit places that remind me of him I will offer a greeting – for example, there is an “ivy tree” on the path I walk from my work to the bank every week.

(That’s pretty much all I do every day right now.  The following are practices I have done but have become sporadic due to the demands of life.  I am in the process of reinstating them.)

When I return home, I will burn incense at the hearth shrine for the Agathos Daimon.

Before retiring for the evening, I will return to Dionysos’ shrine for “quality time.”  (Not that the morning devotions aren’t “quality” as well.)  This is where I offer wine or whatever spirits I have on hand and share a glass with Him.  I will meditate, dance, listen to music.  I try to remain open to Him throughout the rest of the evening as I go more mundane things and “family time.”

If I have any questions for Him I will mull them over in my mind as I fall asleep, hoping for a moment of clarity between sleeping and waking.  I rarely have dreams from any of the Gods.

That’s it.  I’ve felt a pull for quite some time to begin honoring my ancestors and beloved dead, but I’m at a loss how to begin.  The same is true of the nymphs and land spirits, and other deities I wish to honor more directly.

I will do these things in time, but right now I have to remind myself that I am still recovering and my practice is growing slowly.  Rather than jump in with both feet and fail – as I have done many, many times in the past – I am trying to establish practices and show that I can stick with them before adding on something new.

So, um, anyone else feel like sharing?

*On water offerings:  I know that several people take issue with this practice on the grounds that in the west, pure water is so abundant and readily available that it is not a real sacrifice.  I choose to make these offerings for the following reasons:

     – Water is a powerful substance.  Without it, there would be no life on earth.  It is one of the greatest gifts of the Gods.

     – I understand “sacrifice” to mean to make holy.  Any sense of hardship on the part of the one making the offerings is secondary at best.

     – I have been poor enough in the very recent past – while living in a desert no less – that, even if I were to subscribe to the more common meaning of “sacrifice,” I have no illusions about the ready availability of necessities like food, water, and shelter.  Even in the industrial west.

I – Ivy Crowned (PBP Week 17)

Lately I’ve been much more focused on doing things and a lot less on writing about things.  Unfortunately, as a result my PBP posts have fallen behind.  On the plus side: doing things.

One of the things I’ve been doing is getting up earlier every morning to make sure I have time for daily meditations at my shrine.  The first day felt really awkward, but after that its been a very positive experience.

I’m not good at remembering Greek names and I really want to do better, so my chosen meditation at the moment is Dionysos’ epithets.  There are some that are really familiar to me – that describe so well how I perceive Him that they have embedded themselves in my mind in spite of the language difference.  Others are more difficult.  I’ve been choosing one a day at random to meditate on its meaning.  It sticks with me all day.  A way to keep the though of Him near.

The other day, the epithet that came up was Kissokomes, ivy crowned.  In some ways, an obvious one and easy to remember, but deeper than it may seem.  It got me thinking about ivy and Dionysos.  Since this is an “I” week, I’ve decided to share some of these thoughts.  Apologies in advance for the randomness that follows.

Ivy is everywhere in my town.   This is not necessarily a good thing.  Invasive species and all that.  I remember being told as a girl that we don’t plant ivy in our garden, no matter how lovely it is, it’s too destructive.  But it is lovely, and I like seeing this reminder of Him where ever I go.

I find it interesting that the religion of Dionysos, in many myths, was considered foreign and destructive as well.  That must be unintentional, though.  It only works as a metaphor in North America – in the Mediterranean region where the myths developed, ivy is a native plant.

In myth, ivy is associated with Dionysos because it was the ivy that protected Him from Zeus’ fire when His mother was destroyed.

I don’t know of any instances where natural ivy is considered protective in this sense, but its berries sustain many species during times of the year when few other plants supply food.

Here the ivy thrives wild in liminal places.  I’ve never seen ivy growing deep in the forest, but on the edges of civilization.

I like this metaphor better.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I literally live on the edge of a wood, just like in the fairy tales.  Unlike the fairy tales though, my home is part of a fairly sizable town, that butts up against a redwood forest that is even larger.  The forest starts two houses down from me.  And many of the trees along the road that borders it are covered in ivy.

These trees, for the most part do not appear to be damaged by its presence.

Ancients considered a vertical surface, like a tree, covered in ivy to be sacred to Dionysos.  The ancient ivy covered pines at the local cemetery struck me as particularly so when I (re)discovered them this past Anthesteria.

Which leads me to another thought on Dionysos.  He tears us apart so that we can start fresh and become what we are meant to be.  Ivy tears down weak, human things, but embraces the strong in nature.

 

Anthesteria 2013

I have to confess, I’d been worried about this Anthesteria.  I wanted to celebrate it properly, but I just didn’t have the emotional or financial resources to put together a major ritual at the moment, much less a three day festival.  In the end, I decided to keep things casual and see what happened.

The first day, Pithoigia, went beautifully.  Early in the day, I found the ideal wine – a locally made organic sangiovese, well within my very limited budget.  (I’ve never met a red wine grape I didn’t like, but I’ve got a soft spot for sangiovese.)  I live well north of the wine regions of California, so I had expected any local wines to be hard to find or pricey, likely both.  I took the fact that this was neither, and my favorite varietal to boot, as a very positive omen.

I gathered some ivy and wild flowers for the shrine.  The flowers were still pretty sparse at this time of year, so I supplemented them with clippings from some neighbor’s gardens.  The result was quite lovely. (I took some pictures, but the only ones that turned out were of the dolls.)

My husband joined me for the celebration itself.  We opened and drank the new wine, ready poetry in honor of Dionysos, listened to the Doors, and danced badly.  Later, there were more intimate celebrations.

A triumphant night!

Day two, Khoe, was problematic.  I had a job interview first thing in the morning, and guests joining us for dinner later in the day, so I was unable to really get in the proper frame of mind.  I made dolls for Erigone during my dinner party (much to the amusement of my guests), and my husband and I made plans to take them to the park and hang them later that night.

Unfortunately, but the time our guests had gone home, Francis was feeling quite sick.  So ill, in fact, that I wasn’t comfortable leaving him alone.  I had to improvise.

I went alone to my shrine and performed my rite in total silence.  This was eerie and surprisingly effective.

Drinking wine with Orestes and musing on his dilemma – divided loyalties and obligations.  I thought on my own obligation and desire to be a good wife conflicting that night with the desire and obligation to be a good devotee of Dionysos.  I was grateful that, unlike Orestes, I was able to come upon a compromise that I felt did right by both.  I drank my wine – all in one swallow, which was an interesting experience – and shouted praise to Dionysos.

Afterwards, I went outside in the rain and hung the effigies I had made earlier that night from a small tree in the yard.  In lieu of swinging for Erigone, I made a vow to write a post for this blog – thus remembering her and sharing her story with those who perhaps did not know it.

On the final day, Khytroi, Francis and I watched Schindler’s List and remembered the dead.  I thought of my immediate ancestors, those I had known in life, and mourned the fact that I could only remember my grandparent’s faces as they existed in photographs.  Then I got a very clear image of my grandmother laughing happily.  They all started to laugh – my grandfather, dad, my uncles – it made me feel much better.

Later, I made panspermia and took it to the cemetery to offer it to Hermes and the spirits of the dead.  I was planning to visit a particular spot in the cemetery that was off to one side and shielded by some trees.  I am still a little self conscious about public ritual and figured this would offer some privacy.  When I got to the cemetery, the trees in question – which I had only half remembered – turned out to be giant pines, covered in climbing ivy.  Again, a good omen.

As soon as I made the offering and directed the keres “to the doors”, I felt lightened.  The headache I had had all day eased up.

I could feel spring at hand.

E – Erigone (PBP week 9)

 

Erigone by Charles-Antoine-Joseph Loyeux

Erigone by Charles-Antoine-Joseph Loyeux

Erigone is a minor figure in Greek mythology as a whole, but important in the cult of Dionysos.  She is remembered on the second day of Anthesteria.

For those unfamiliar with her story, here is a short version:

The First Wine Drinkers Dionysos, Erigone, and Icarius. Photo credit unknown.

Erigone was the daughter of Icarius, who was the first wine maker (and who shouldn’t be confused with Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.)  Dionysos taught him this art as a bride price for Erigone, who the God had fallen in love with.  When Icarius shared the new drink with his Athenian neighbors they became greatly intoxicated and, unfamiliar with the sensation, thought that they had been poisoned.  They formed and angry mob and set upon Icarius, murdering him.  Erigone looked everywhere for him, until the family dog, Meara, led her to his body, which had been thrown down a well.  In despair at her father’s death, Erigone hanged herself.  The dog threw itself into the well and drowned.

Dionysos, as one might imagine, was greatly angered and cursed the city of Athens.  The land became barren and all the daughters of the city went mad and hanged themselves.  The king of Athens, despairing for his city, went to Delphi to learn what caused this curse.  Upon being told that it was due to the  fate of ErigoneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the king instituted a festival in her honor, in which dolls were hung from trees in lieu of the daughters of Athens.  Young girls would sit on swings, emulating the motion of her body in death.  Thus Dionysos was appeased and his punishment was lifted.  The God further honored the family by placing them in the stars as the constellations Virgo (Erigone) and Boötes (Icarius), and the star Procyon (Maera.)

Today, on the second day of Anthesteria, we hang dolls and ribbons from trees and we swing in the memory of Erigone, Icarius, and their loyal dog.

I did not know this story until I began to prepare for the celebration of my first Anthesteria.  While women such as Daphne, Ino, and Psyche are well known, even in this day and age when a classical education is considered an extravagance, Erigone is much more obscure – at least outside of Hellenic circles.

Since our introduction, however, Erigone has come to mean a lot to me.  As I wrote in my earlier post about depression, on one level she symbolizes to me the nature of that disease – a grief or despair so great that all the joys of life cease to matter.  Or even to be comprehended.  On another, her story speaks to me of the divided loyalties that can be a consequence of a close relationship with the divine – in the end, her loyalty to her father outweighed the loyalty she had for Dionysos.

But on another, deeper, level her story gives me hope.  Like most of the mortal women who seem to have suffered for getting the attention of a God, Erigone actually became greater after death.  She was purified and transformed through the action of Dionysos.  She has achieved a human sort of immortality after all:  while her name is remembered only by a few, it is still remembered, and even more well known is her form among the stars – the constellation Virgo.

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.