Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A reflection on an experiment

Saturday night was an exercise in preparedness for me, and it's one I failed.  Not for the reasons I expected, but... more on that later.

A friend of mine has been hosting full moon rites honoring each of the Olympians (with Hestia being honored during those odd years where there are 13 full moons).  She uses Hellenion's libation calendar, which means the full moon for Dionysos fell on December 6th.  Normally, I can't make the drive for those rites, as it's about a two hour drive for me, but December 6th was a Saturday... and this is Dionysos... hell yes, I went.  Not only did I go: I led the working for this particular rite, a liberation working and type of oracular horsing.

The idea behind the working was fairly simple in thought, but not quite in execution: When the working began, I secluded myself in a room with certain symbols of the underworld Dionysos, and brought myself into trance.  Within the trance, I completely opened myself to Dionysos, my body and my mind, to let him take over--something I've done before, willingly and joyfully, but never with others present.  At the same time, in the other room, the participants were also entering a light trance, preparing to journey to the underworld.  Once they reached me, they offered a stone they had been given at the ritual's beginning, symbolic of something they wished to be RID of.  The idea, then, was to present the worst in your heart to Dionysos, and ask him for freedom.  He would then use me to say whatever needed to be said to the participant, who would return to the upper world, rid of their cares, wash with khernips, and the next participant would come in.

The main purpose of doing this this way was twofold: to see if I COULD trance like that for a group of people, and for my friend to see me IN that kind of trance state so she can spot for me if and when heavy trance is needed in my life.  A kind of spiritual precaution, if you will.

There were four participants, plus me.

I was not prepared.

I don't remember a single word said to me or by me, only vague visions of Hera and a few other trance images.

I was not prepared.

I REALLY didn't think through the implications of this quite enough.

The little feedback I've gotten so far seems to be mostly positive--it worked, so far as I can tell, for the participants.  Somehow, though, I miscalculated what this would mean for me.  I was so wrapped up in thoughts of whether or not I could sustain trance that heavy without getting tired before we were done that I failed to consider what would happen to me AFTER the rite and into the coming days.

Four participants, giving the worst of what is in their heart to Dionysos.  Me, horsed by Dionysos, accepting those offerings on his behalf, letting him use me to speak.

I failed to consider that I was accepting the struggles of four very strong, very passionate, very spiritual people into myself.  I can be an idiot sometimes, you know?

Sunday, I was mostly distracted by the realities of life.  Sunday night was another story.  I felt off, I felt wrong, I felt heavy.  That heaviness continued into Monday night, when I lay in bed alone, and simply... cried.  The weight was too much.  I called to Dionysos, asked him what was happening.

"You didn't know you were asking for this, but you asked for it."

I thought of the four small black stones, sitting wrapped in cloth on my altar, waiting to be purified and cast out.  I thought of the emotional and spiritual energy I had opened myself to.  No amount of khernips can clean something you willingly take into yourself, not of that magnitude.  The weight of the hearts of four strong individuals is something I simply cannot bear.

I asked him what I should do.  "Understand.  Carry the weight, and when the weight is gone, carry the memory of the weight.  Lesson learned."

The stones and the weight will stay with me until Saturday.  Saturday, I will cleanse them and cast them out, leaving only the memory of the weight in my heart.

I will not do this for a group again.  I will come up with another kind of ritual for Summerlands next year, but I will not do this for a group again.  I may, on occasion, do this for a close friend who is in desperate need of healing--Dionysos has taken my burdens from me in the past, so I should continue to pass that blessing onto others.  One at a time, though.  I cannot handle more.  I don't WANT to handle more.

I am sorry, my friends, that I failed you.  I am sorry, Dionysos, that my hubris blinded me from reason.  Lesson learned.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My first Thyrsus is finished, at last

Let me just start off by saying I MEANT to go see Mockingjay tonight.  I drove to a restaurant near the theater for dinner, left just in time to get tickets, and then... an itch, like I can't describe.  Not a physical itch.  A spiritual itch.  Like Dionysos tickling my soul's feet with a feather, driving me crazier by the minute. I skipped the theater and drove home.

The thyrsus has been about two months in progress.  I acquired the base staff a few months ago, but only about two months ago did I bring it to my dad's shop to start actually preparing it.  He helped me sand it, stain it, apply polyurethane to the shaft and the cone, and attach the cone.  I then brought it home, and promptly procrastinated attaching the ribbons and actually blessing the thing.  I guess Dionysos got impatient, because that happened tonight.

The ritual was a fairly standard ritual, with the exception of the actual working.  For the working, I poured a glass of wine, calling upon it as the blood of Dionysos.  I then cut my own finger just deeply enough to get a few drops of blood from it, and mixed those with the wine.  That mixture was then used to coat and bless the thyrsus, with a prayer that I wrote:

I call to the rushing Bull God.
I call to the Thrice Born.
I call to the Giver of Madness.
Let he who leads the throngs become Dionysos.
Bestow your blessings upon this staff, upon this cone, upon this thyrsus.

Mighty Zagreus!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the paths through the underworld.
Mighty Zagreus!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know sparagmos and rebirth.
Mighty Zagreus:
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the fires and lightening of the heavens.

Mighty Bromios!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the freedom of childhood.
Mighty Bromios!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the love of and for Semele and Ariadne.
Mighty Bromios!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the paths through the underworld and to Olympus, sharing with you your godhood.

Mighty Iakchos!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, follow the torches upon the initiate's path.
Mighty Iakchos!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, gaze deep into the mask without fear.
Mighty Iakchos!
By your blood and mine, let the bearer of this, your thyrsus, know the mysteries you have given.

Dionysos, Zagreus, Bromios, Iakchos!
Bestow your magic upon this thyrsus.
Bestow your blessing upon this thyrsus.
Bestow your power upon this thyrsus.

Let the bearer of this become Dionysos--
     See with your eyes,
     Speak with your voice,
     Hear with your ears,
     Know with your mind.

Let the bearer of this work your wonders in the world.
By your blood spilled, by my blood mingled--

Nine times was the wine/blood mixture rubbed into the staff--three times for Zagreus, three times for Bromios, three times for Iakchos.  I then stood with the thyrsus in hand for... who knows how long (my cat started mewling pitifully from the bathroom in which he was locked to prevent him from chasing the ribbons).  Closed the rite, put a bandaid on my finger, and took a picture of the staff.

The offering I gave to Dionysos this time was some of the Orphic incense powder formulated for use by the Thiasos of the Starry Bull.  And when the seller says a little goes a long way... she means it.  I did not have charcoal, so I formed a small mound (half an inch high and about an inch around) and lit the top.  It's still burning an hour later, and my entire apartment smells wonderfully heady and rich.

I very rarely work any kind of... magic, outside from that involved in opening and closing the gates.  I blessed some wine for friends a few months ago, and I bless my own ritual tools, but that's about it.  This particular working was... distinctly powerful.  The only part that made me nervous was cutting my own finger--it proved to be difficult, as the knife was apparently not very sharp.  I never use my own blood in other rituals, though, so I'm not too worried about finding a better way to do that.

All in all, though, I'd say it was an exceedingly successful rite.  Now let's see what kind of mischief I can get up to...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dr. Strangegod, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My God.

So as some of you may have noticed, there's been a lot of talk about animal sacrifice the last few days.  And I've spent most of that few days reading, doing divination, and talking to Sannion (amongst others) about it.

Most of those conversations have been calm, respectful, and polite.  It's a hot issue, and not one to be taken lightly--no matter what side of the coin you stand on, I think we can ALL agree that this isn't something to be flip about.  For the last few days, my coin has been precariously balanced on its edge, not falling to one side or another, until it fell over last night in the wee hours of the morning, as I sat on the couch with my cat, unable to sleep for the worry that was clutching at me.

When the topic was first broached in Thursday's Thiasos chat, everyone seemed pretty much okay with it.  No complaints, just a few questions.  I didn't say anything right away, but here's what was happening on my side of the screen: jaw slack, stomach threatening to return my dinner, hands shaking and sweaty.  I didn't say any of that at the time--what I said (to my recollection) was something along the lines of, "I'm going to have to think long and hard about that before I decide if I'm okay with it."  And the reaction was... positive.  Sannion asked me to voice my objections, if I felt comfortable with it, and some of them I could voice (how is the animal treated, etc.), but some were simply gut reactions that I didn't understand myself.

I was a vegetarian for 11 months in college.  That probably would have lasted longer if I'd had options other than tater tots and whatever "fruit" the cafeteria was serving that day.  Towards the end of those months, I had a series of long talks over the phone with my dad, who happens to have a degree in Poultry Science (and, consequently, worked at a feed mill/slaughterhouse for chickens for a number of years before he joined the military).  He explained to me the mechanics of slaughter.  I read the science and looked into my own misconceptions about the biology behind pain, consciousness, and our own evolutionary progress as related to our digestion.  And I came to the conclusion that yeah, a LOT of what we're eating is CRAP, and we really do need to be more careful about what we ingest and how we treat the animals (and plants!) that we consume, but there's nothing intrinsically WRONG with eating meat.  I had a hot dog yesterday.  It was delicious.

So, towards the end of the chat (I think it got removed per my request, but I didn't check the log), I asked if anyone would do divination for me, as I was uneasy and unsure of my future of the thiasos.  I got two responses that night, both of which emphasized the need to think about my ancestry--and to think about how my family would feel about the slaughter of animals.  Now, my family isn't pagan, by a long shot--they hate that part of me. But they are, for the most part, farmers: pig farmers, chicken farmers, I think there are a few cow farmers somewhere in there.  Both sides of my family.  It's not strange, for my grandparents, for my cousins who did 4H, for any of my family to think "Dinner's in a few hours, I should go grab a chicken" and have that chicken still be alive while they're thinking that thought.  It's just a non-issue.  It was a part of life.  I've heard arguments that "we don't need to kill for our food anymore," but... that's not entirely true.  For the chicken farmer who only has his chickens, it's a lot of times cheaper and easier to kill a couple chickens to feed your 12 children (as was the case for BOTH my dad's parents) than it was to go out and BUY someone else's produce.  And if you traded your chickens FOR that produce, it was with the full knowledge that those chickens were going to be eaten.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and go one by one through the arguments I've seen presented, on either side of the coin.  I'm not interested in arguments, and I don't have the emotional capacity for that kind of stress.  When my facebook thread started getting heated, I deleted it.  I just don't have it in me to even watch those arguments at the moment.  There are only three things I'm going to address directly: my own divination, the topic of human sacrifice (and where I agree with the Anomalous Thracian on that), and where I stand now.


I use the Greek Alphabet oracle for divination purposes.  I know a lot of the Thiastai use dice rolls and long lists of phrases (a lot of them coined by Sannion), but I like the Greek Alphabet--For one, I can carry it in my pocket, and it's easier to remember.  It is, however, harder to interpret, even more so when you're doing it for yourself and you're terrified of the answer.  So, I asked four questions, and pulled four answers:

What will be my role within the Thiasos?
-Omicron: There are no crops to be reaped which were not sown.
-Interpreted: Put in the work to get the result.  Standing on the sidelines will merit you nothing, sowing the crops will feed and nourish you and your family.

What is the nature of the sacrifice desired by me?
-Zeta: Flee the great storm, lest you be disabled in some way.
-Interpreted: Zeta is the symbol of Zeus.  Zeus scares the everloving shit out of me (as do Poseidon and Hades, for that matter).  But this symbol, in this particular reading, read as more of a "let go of that which no longer serves you" than anything else.  In this case, given the mindset and the prayers from before the start of the divination, I believe this to be a caution against preconceptions.

Should I receive the benefits of a sacrificial animal?
-Theta: You have the helping gods of this path.
-Interpretation: "Hon, you're worrying too much.  We've got this."  This was the symbol that inspired the punful title of the post, actually.  It's been coming up a lot for me lately, and almost always with a strong connection to Dionysos himself.  A similar reading came from one of the aforementioned divinations from another Thiasos member: "Dionysos won't get angry at you whatever you choose.  In fact, your free choice is preferred."

Should I continue the work I am doing within the Thiasos of the Starry Bull?
-Alpha: The God (Apollo) says you will do everything successfully.
-Interpretation: "Hon.  WE'VE GOT THIS."  Alpha is one of the few universally positive symbols within the set.  As a friend of mine stated in one of her interpretations, "Stop second guessing yourself and just act already."

Human Sacrifice

Did it happen in the past?  Yes.  Even if there's some question about the Gauls (given that the only cases of it happening there were written by their enemies, Julius Caesar in particular), there's no question that it happened amongst the Greeks, PARTICULARLY the Bacchic cults.  You can't read 3 (thousand) stories about maenads dismembering someone and not recognize that it is a tradition strongly rooted in blood--even if you don't take the myths literally, which I don't, people still died.  It happened.  Dionysos himself was dismembered on at least one occasion, and died more times than I can count.  He's not all wine and sex and wild parties, and to characterize him in that manner is either ignorance of myth (which is certainly excuseable, especially if you're new to this whole thing) or WILLFUL ignorance (which in my book really ISN'T that excuseable).  Does he call everyone to blood and gore?  Of course not.  We're not all formed from the same mold, and we're not all given the same gifts.  Calling everyone to the same path religiously is like telling every artist they have to be a banker--some of them might have side skills they can use for it, but most of them are going to be uncomfortable with it.  And that's perfectly okay.

The main question for me is this: do the gods still require or request human sacrifice?  Short answer... no.  Long answer... kinda.  The Anomalous Thracian commented on Sannion's post about the matter with something I'm just going to quote verbatim:

"If the gods required human sacrifice of us today, as they did lawfully call for in the past, they would have ensured that we had the priests and paradigms to see these things returned. They have not, nor does it seem that is is likely to change anytime soon. We literally don’t have priests for those rituals, even if we had the rituals themselves required of us. And, as is ALWAYS stated on the subject of sacrifice, it is better to not do something at all than to do it wrongly, unjustly, without skill or training or lawful place. And the reality is, we simply do not have that job or role any longer in any tradition that I know of in Polytheist religion, today."

Do the gods require human sacrifice?  No.  Do they request it?  Sometimes.  Does it involve someone standing over an unwilling victim holding a knife and chanting in some dead language?  HELL no.  A lot of what Sannion has addressed is the idea of consent--an animal is not sacrificed if it doesn't consent, end of story.  Because we don't speak the languages of these animals, we use divination and body language to determine that consent.  With humans, though, consent is different--we know our own consciousness, and I firmly believe that the ONLY person who can or should give your life for the gods is YOU, and ONLY as a last resort, when you have been psychologically evaluated and determined to be of sound mind.  Sannion gave a 99.5% probability of that not ever happening--I'd give it more of a 99.999999999999999999999999% probability of not happening.

I will never, ever, willingly take the life of another human being.  I know this.  My gods know this.  If they ask me to do so, even if the person is willing, even then... I will tell them no.  The only god I'm close enough to who would even get away with asking that sort of thing in jest is Dionysos, and like Markos said, he pushes your boundaries... but doesn't go past them, so long as you set them.

If, in some break with reality, Sannion or whoever is Archiboukolos states that we, as a Thiasos, need to accept or participate in the sacrifice of another human being, I will challenge him, per his own rules, for authority over the Thiasos.  Failing that, I will leave.  End of story.  As the omens said... my choice is my choice, and it is preferred for my path that I follow my own choice.  That may sound extreme, but this is one area where I won't compromise.   If someone gives their life in service to the gods (either intentionally, walking into a situation where they know they will likely die, or as part of performing some sort of service whereby they are accidentally killed), then I will respect and honor them as a martyr.  But I will not knowingly cause their death.

What next?

My fears have been allayed.  A combination of knowledge of the ritual itself (specifically, how the animal is killed, how the divination is done to determine consent, and the level of involvement I need to personally take) and my own divination has shown me that my choice and my gut are paramount for me, personally.

I choose to stay.  I choose to receive the benefits of a humane animal sacrifice, though I have determined that I will never be the one performing the sacrifice.  And not only do I choose to stay, I choose to progress: not on the sidelines, but as an active participant in a growing tradition. I could not be happier or more proud to be part of a tradition where disagreement is treated with respect, where I need not be afraid to say, "I'm feeling something weird about this and I don't know why."  I could not be more blessed to have a space wherein I can examine my own preconceptions and let go of those that no longer serve me.  And whatever my specific calling may be, whatever gifts I have that can be used, I will give those, freely, as my choice offering to the gods, and to the community.

That is my sacrifice.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The afterlife

So I've been struggling with the concept of the afterlife.

Part of this is because I'm a weird mix of recon and neopagan, particularly regarding my worship of Dionysos.  Obviously, I'm not tearing people apart with my bare hands, but a lot of what's going on in the Thiasos is a combination of scholarship (regarding the Orphics, mostly) and shared gnosis.  ADF, on the other hand, is not an explicitly Greek organization, and doesn't in any way dictate belief, so I haven't seen or heard much regarding the concept of the afterlife from that end.

I'm trying to determine my own belief, honestly.  What do *I* think happens when we die?  The starting question, for me, is this: is the afterlife permanent?

The ancient Greeks seemed to view the afterlife as a permanent destination, and if you were one of the mindless shades, it wasn't a particularly pleasant one (not necessarily unpleasant, but not exactly feasts and flowers).  The initiates of the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries, though, seemed to believe (from what I can tell, I'm not exactly well-versed) that they were, by right of their initiation, destined for and afterlife that WAS pleasant--the fields, or the feasts of Bacchus.  Then there's the concept of Tartarus, which I'm not even going to touch.

Most Neopagans I've met, on the other hand, seem to be inclined toward belief in reincarnation, and this has been my inclination as well.  My logic is that we, to a certain extent, choose our next incarnation, based on an experience we have not yet had that the next life is promised to give us.  This doesn't mean we know all circumstances of that life before we choose it, simply that we have decided "I don't know what it's like to be a female salmon" and so, we are then incarnated as a female salmon.  Once we have experienced all we desire to experience, then we stop incarnating, and migrate more into the realm of the gods than the ancestors.  None of that is based on anything other than my own experience and mind, though, so who knows how accurate it is.

The struggle I'm facing, at least now, is the idea of initiation into any kind of Bacchic mystery.  While the promise of feasting and pleasantry is an appealing one, I am... slightly disturbed by the notion that that kind of afterlife is only available to initiates.  I would want to see my family, my dog, my cat.  Should I have a child who follows Odin and dies in battle, would I never know that child in Valhalla?  Or my Christian family, who would spend eternity at the side of their god?  Am I trapped in that Dionysian revelry, with only other Dionysians as company?  I have no doubt I'd have fun, but I feel like there would be something missing.

I had the thought, as I was puzzling this through last night, that spirit may work differently than physical, in the sense that we don't need to be in only one place at one time once we are no longer constrained by physical reality.  The gods, after all, can manifest parts of themselves in more than one place at once, certainly.  What's to say we can't, as well?  But I also don't want to risk the hubris of assuming I will become like a god when I die.

As well, if reincarnation happens, what determines entrance into those exclusive clubs?  If I am an initiate now, does that give me the key card that will let me in and out, like a membership card?  How does that even work?

My thoughts are all kinds of messy right now.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

He's been calling for a long time.

I had to wait at the dealership for about two and a half hours today for my car to get fixed.  While doing so, I spent some time with a few books regarding everyone's favorite mad god, and pondering His holy symbols.  And you know what?  I think he's been calling me for a long time.  I was just too bull-headed myself to listen.  Brief summary...

-Above the main entry/exit of every house we've lived in, my parents (Christians) have hung a carved mask of a bearded man with ivy woven through his hair.
-High school mascot was a panther.
-Childhood friend once told me I was a Leopard, and the nickname stuck for a while.
-Childhood fascination with sculpting masks.
-The series of pitchers sitting in every kitchen at every house my parents have lived in, shaped like roosters.
-The Labyrinth at OSU, where I most strongly felt the pull of polytheism for the first time.
-Alternating fear and fascination with snakes (how many people with a serpentine phobia can enter trance by handling snakes?)
-Grapes follow me everywhere.  No, seriously.  And Ivy.  I remember watching Ivy being pulled off an old building as a child, and weeping for hours for the lost beauty, the insanity of removing such a wonderful plant.  My mother thought I was insane.
-Pines and evergreens are kinda my thing.
-Caves.  I didn't know Dionysos was associated with caves, yet I've always met him in one.

I think Dionysos has been stalking me.  Y'know?  I'm pretty okay with that.

On a different note, Sannion recently put out a call for members of the Thiasos to submit poetry, altar images, prayers, etc. to be posted on the group's website.  I sent him one of mine already, but beginning next Monday, I'm going to write a poem or prayer every day, in line with the group's daily devotional calendar, culminating with what will probably be a very long, personal SOMEthing for Dionysos on Sunday.  Wish me luck.

Friday, August 8, 2014

I got angry at Dionysos.

I got angry at Dionysos.

Wednesday morning, I texted my dad.  "How's the dog?"

"Not well.  We need you here by 7:45 tomorrow.  It's time to let her go."

17 years she was with us, my pup.  17 blissful years of a stubby little tail wagging her entire bottom whenever I walked in the door, of tummy rubs and sloppy kisses and begging for carrots.  Even though she'd been very ill for a few days, it was too much.  I broke down and started crying at work.  My supervisor, thankfully, has lost a pet before, and gave me some time to myself and a box of tissues.  So I went into a room alone and cried.

Dionysos and I have had an agreement in the past--when my pain is unbearable, He will replace it with joy.  This has worked well for the unexplained, untriggered bouts of depression.  But this time... this time, when He stood before me, arms outstretched, offering, I snapped.

"Go away!  I don't want you here!  You can't have this!  This is MINE, this is MY pain!  I'm allowed to feel this right now.  Go away!"

And He did.  Later, I went home, to spend one last night with my dog.  And as I cried in bed, He came to me again.

"Fuck you!  Fuck you and your joy!  Get the hell away from me!  There is no joy that can replace this, you ass!"

This time, He did not go.  He kept standing there, holding out His arms, looking at me.  I continued screaming, ranting, raving.  I threw things (which is a decidedly odd experience in trance, because you never know what's going to be there to throw).  I cussed, I cried, I fell to my knees.  And I looked at His face.

He was crying.  I understood, then.  He did not offer me joy.  He did not offer to take my pain away.  He offered me comfort.  He offered me empathy.  He knows what it's like, perhaps better than any other god I've worked with, to lose someone precious.

I went to him, then.  And I wept, hot tears, bitter tears, angry tears, despairing tears.  I wept for myself, I wept for my parents and sister, I wept for my dog.  And He held me, and rocked me, until I slept.

I have never watched someone die before.  I lost my great grandmother when I was in 6th grade, but I wasn't close to her.  I lost my aunt in college, but I was away, and she had been very sick for a very long time.  My dog, though, was simply old.  When the sickness came, it was over in less than a week.  Liver failure is like that.  She just started shutting down.  But I was there, with her, with my parents, and I watched her last breath.  The vet took out a stethoscope and held it to her chest.  "She's gone," and my father began to weep, and clung to me.  My mother bent over on the table.  And I cried out to Dionysos.

The pain is still very fresh.  The grief is very real.  It comes in waves... so long as I'm busy, I'm fine.  I had to plan this post in small bits, throughout the day, in between activities that took all of my concentration.  I'm still not sure it makes sense. Even planned as it was, I can't see the keyboard through the tears.  But it's out there, now.

Hail, Comforter.
Hail, bringer of peace.
Hail, Dionysos.

Hail, Hekate.
Hail, Mistress of crossroads.
Hail, guardian of my pup, who runs with your hounds in the worlds beyond this one.

Hail, Sadie, flopping ear and wagging tail.
I love you.
I miss you.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mighty Dionysus!
Lord of the Vine!
Ruler of madness!
Bringer of joy!

Three years ago, I came to you.  Hesitant, desperate, I wagered on the words of a dear friend.  Lying in bed, alone and crying, I called out, only Your name on my lips.

I had nothing to bring but tears and broken dreams.  You took my hands, kissed the tears from my cheeks, and wrapped me in Your embrace, the embrace of joy.

You took the pain when it was too much.  You took the hurt when it overwhelmed me.  You took the emptiness and filled it with love.  You took my broken dreams and crushed hopes, and showed me a vision of who I could be.  You took my hand, and started me on this path.

You have given me so much, Lord.  I cannot begin to express my joy, my admiration, my wild love for my wild god.

Thank you, Bringer of Joy!
Thank you, Ruler of Madness!
Thank you, Lord of the Vine!
Thank you, Thrice-Born!
Thank you, Bull-God!
Thank you, O Dionysus, O Lord!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dionysos came home!

Tonight, I consecrated and blessed a statue of Dionysos I procured this weekend, thanks in part to a close friend of mine (who I call my soul-sister, because really, we were sisters at some point in one of our lives).  The ritual itself was a hodgepodge of ADF style ritual, with Greek influences: Calling Hestia before the Earth Mother, using an omphalos instead of a world tree, and a few other odds and ends.  For the first time, I actually created and used chernips--a small vial of water, into which I dropped a burning incense match, and then washed myself with it.  It was powerful, and something I think I'll do more often.

The working to bless the statue, was, honestly, something I kind of came up with on the spot.  After having stated my intentions and made offerings, I took an omen.  The omen was as follows:

  • Have my offerings been accepted?  ~Khi: "Succeeding, friend, you will fulfill a golden oracle."  Positive omens to start off with.
  • What do the Kindreds offer to me?  ~Beta: "With the help of fortune, you will have an assistant, Apollo."  Assistance, guidance.  I had asked for this earlier in the day, but had sensed the Kindreds wanted something more before they were willing to offer me specifically what I was asking for, which I won't go into here.
  • What further needs do the Kindreds have of me?  ~Delta: "In customs, inopportune strength is weak."  I have always had trouble interpreting this particular oracle.  In this one, however, the message seemed clear: timing is everything.  Persistence and patience will win the day, don't try to do everything at once.

Those omens received, I opened a new bottle of local Ohio wine, poured a libation to the Lord of the Vine, and poured a small cup for myself.  After sharing the wine with him, I took the statue, and anointed it with both the chernips and the wine, blessing it as a home for Him, a place of His worship and His rest.  I dedicated this shrine to him, with its own offering bowl, and His flame (a candle I have had for quite some time, before I was able to get a direct representation of Him).  I asked Him to remind me of His love and His joy each time I gaze upon the statue, and welcomed Him to His permanent place in my home.  Given the aforementioned omens, I think he was pleased.

Cue the reversal of the ritual (thanking everyone, closing the gates, thanking Gaia, thanking Hestia), I poured the offerings I gave upon the stone that's set in the ground outside my apartment (since I couldn't actually DO the ritual outside, they went into a cup and got poured out after the fact).

I have some pictures of the shrine below.  One where the candle is unlit, one where the candle is lit (because the light made it too hard to see the candle holder, which I wanted to share because hey, it's pretty).  Eventually, a Thyrsus will be added.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Trance with the Bull God is an odd experience, and it's different every time I do it.  Tonight, the feeling was akin to one I cherished as a young girl: my father holding my wrists as he spun me in circles, my feet lifting from the ground.

It is a wild feeling, a flying feeling, very in touch with the joyous nature of the God.  Knowing that were he to let go, I would be lost, but he holds me fast, and in doing so, allows me to experience joy and abandon beyond what I could hope to experience in the mundane world.

Tonight, for the first time, I saw him in one of his ancient forms: youthful, exuberant, the sun shining, making him glow (or was he glowing from the inside and lighting all around him?).  He was the young god of the emerging firstfruits.  The vines are beginning to flesh out with leaves and fruit, and he is young again, newly born, newly emerged from the Underworld.  He dances among the fields, and where his feet touch springs new life.  He is rebirth, he is joy, he is exuberance.

He gave me an oracle: Rho.  Wait for a short time.  And so I will listen to this mad and joyful god, who spins me in circles and lets me safely back into myself.  I will hold my feet, dance the dance I am dancing even now, and when I hear the beat change, then, and only then, shall I move forward.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


So my last post was mostly a rambling of all the thoughts jumbled together in my head.  I'm going to attempt to make this one a little more topic-focused.  Today's thought: community.

Around my neck hangs a triskele.  Cast in bronze, it's begun to wear, but there are rarely days when I take it off.  It was gifted to me by my grove at our anniversary rite in August of 2012, as a token of having completed the Dedicant Program.  Every member of the grove gets some such token for completing that particular study program, and mine is the triskele.  I don't have any particular connection to that symbol specifically, but I've grown quite attached to it since the necklace was gifted to me.

A bit of backstory.  I first met my grove when I lived, for roughly a year and a half, in Columbus.  I was a student there, I didn't have a car, so I only went to a handful of rites.  Still, it led me quickly to joining ADF.  I shortly transferred to another school and moved about an hour and a half away.  I briefly (for roughly a year and a half) left paganism in favor of Catholicism.  I didn't go to grove rites for a number of years.  A deeply personal experience that I'm unwilling to publicly blog about led to my return to paganism.  I started working on my own, I set up a personal altar, I read everything I could get my hands on, but a little voice in the back of my head said to me, "Remember the Dedicant Program that drew you to ADF in the first place?  You should really look at that again..."

I didn't still have my study materials, so I renewed my long-expired membership.  Part of that renewal asked for Grove affiliation.  None, I wrote.  And then that little voice again.  "They might remember you."  I thought about it for a long time.  I assumed I would be shamed for having gone the way of Catholicism and then coming back.  I assumed there would be snickers behind hands and whispers behind backs about the girl who couldn't make up her mind.  It wouldn't have been the first time I'd heard such talk, though it would be the first time I heard such talk from pagans.

Still, I, and my roommate, went to a Samhain rite.  The drive was long, and when we arrived, there were over 100 people in attendance.  The last rite I'd been to with that grove only had about fifteen!  How could so much happen in two years?!  (Turns out, there were a number of visiting groves and other pagan groups in attendance... I haven't seen a rite quite that large, except possibly Comfest, since then).  Lo and Behold, though... someone walked up to me and said, "Hey!  Welcome back.  We've missed you."  Another grove member came to me and said "Welcome home."  Home, I thought... Yes.  This is home.

I completed the Dedicant program two years later, having my documentation accepted exactly 1 week after my petition for full grove membership was accepted.  My "turkey basting" occurred and I was gifted a token which I will not, under any circumstances, speak more about.  I spoke to Teutates not as "the god of the tribe" but as The God of My Tribe.  It was warm, loving, and supportive.

When I left graduate school the first time (I'm returning this fall, to COMPLETE my degree), I got myself a Big Girl Job.  I moved further south (adding about 20 minutes to any drive to a grove High Day), and started working 5 (sometimes 6) days a week.  This meant two things: I now had some money, but I now had no time.  My shift has just now changed to allow me to leave work while the sun is still shining, but if it happens on a weeknight, I am simply too far away to join my grove for events.  High Days are always on Sundays, usually the one closest to the actual High Day, so I can usually make those.  But druid moons, full moons, liturgy and study meetings... I can't go to them anymore.  At all.  It's simply not possible.

A close friend suggested getting involved with the local grove (yes, there's one closer than my original grove).  I have considered this.  They're good people, and I could find a home there.  Still, the separation from MY grove is exceedingly painful.  They are kin to me, not just 'members of my church.'  I can't make weekend trips to Columbus anymore, and outside of High Days, I never speak to or see anyone from the grove.  It's causing me to question how much of a member I really am.  I wonder, sometimes, if anyone thinks of me and wonders where I've been.  I wonder if they miss me, if they wish I were closer.  I wonder if I ever contributed in any way.

Recently, one of our priests posed a question to Facebook: "If you could give 6 words of advice to new pagans, what would they be?"  One of the responses was "Can't find community?  Make your own."

I did some searching for pagan communities in the area I'm moving to this fall, which is STILL further from my grove.  UU churches have been suggested to me (and I know the CUUPS is a good group, even if they don't have a local branch down here).  I tried contacting the few pagan groups I found that were not exclusively Wiccan, and received no response (possibly they're defunct and the website just hasn't been updated; this seems to be a fairly common occurrence with pagan websites).  But maybe... maybe it's time to start something.  I'll be in that town for a few years.  I know there ARE pagans there.

So this is what I'm pondering right now.  Leaving a community on good terms, maintaining ties over distance and time, starting fresh, starting something new, and tying everything together to form a lasting bond.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just starting out...

I decided to start an actual blog.  My old DP blog is still out there on live journal, but it seemed inappropriate now that I've long completed the DP and am moving to another phase in my spirituality.  So, here I am, a bull-headed follower of a Bull God (Dionysus, for those of you playing the non-Greek game).  This is probably going to be a combination of rantings, devotionals, ponderings-out-loud, and assorted musings on life, religion, faith, growth, and anything else that pops into my head.  We're all mad, here.

Due to the public nature of this blog, I'm going to attempt to not reveal TOO much about myself, and trust that those reading who know me will be able to fill in the blanks.

Let's start off with something that's been rolling around in my head, then.  The concept of faith.

Faith among pagans, at least in my experience, is rarely talked about.  At least for my overarching church, there's this notion of orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy, and we are decidedly orthopraxic... what you believe doesn't matter nearly as much as what you do.  It seems, almost, that even talking about beliefs (philosophy AND theology, which I separate from one another) has become a sort of "taboo."  Maybe this is because of my nature as a mostly solitary druid--most of my contact with other pagans is through Facebook, with the exception of the occasional High Day that I can make the drive to celebrate with others.  My lack of conversation with other pagans is greatly affecting what I hear and experience, even as a grove member.  There's not a whole heck of a lot I can do about that, either, I feel--I just can't make a two hour drive with any kind of regularity, and most people I talk to (or try to talk to) are incredibly busy.  Not that I'm blaming anyone, it's just the reality of my situation at the moment.

This whole train of thought came into mind due to an odd experience I had this weekend.  I was visiting my sister in another state, and went to church with her--a VERY large, non-denominational, "community church" that she's become very involved in in the time she's lived there.  I'm pretty sure everyone I met there assumed I was Christian, just based on my relationship with my sister, even though I wasn't singing their songs (I might have, had I known the words or tune) or praying their prayers (which are all silent, so no one knew who I was actually praying to).  This, as a saw, is a community.  A group of people serving each other and serving the world, all based on a foundation of belief.  The sermon was even on that foundation... the classified it into three things.  Essentials (Jesus died, Jesus was buried, Jesus rose, Jesus appeared), Convictions (things you believe very strongly but aren't necessary to be a Christian), and Preferences (worship style, hair color, what have you).  The pastor spoke at length about the unfortunate tendency of Christians to turn Convictions and Preferences into essentials, whilst dumbing down the essentials into something no one ever really talks about.  The point of the sermon was to step back and look at yourselves--look at what's necessary for your belief, and focus first and foremost on that.

I found myself, during their time of silent prayer, saying my first prayer to the Abrahamic god in many years.  I thanked him, oddly enough, for what he has done for my sister--he is not my god, but he has blessed my sister, she has found a community focused on him that she is at home in, and she's had amazing things happen because of it.  Her relationship to her church, interestingly, has made my relationship to her stronger over the years.  So I thanked that god, and we parted, I think, on good terms.

It took me roughly 7 hours to drive home that day.  I spent a great deal of time thinking about that community based on faith, and I came to realize... I miss that.  I miss the community, the inclusion.  I'm a member of a druid grove, at least in name, but... am I really?  They meet often and I can't be there, they do local community events that I can't be a part of because I live two hours away.  Soon, I will be moving further south, further away from that grove.  I find myself wondering, when the time comes this fall, if I will renew my official membership.  They are forever my kin, but the distance is taxing me, more so than I think any of them know.

I find myself thinking about my faith.  What do I really believe?  What beliefs are at the core of my self?  Even if it's what I do that makes me a pagan, what beliefs INSPIRE what I do?

I spent some time with Dionysus tonight.  He was there, as always, ready to sit with me and talk.  Ready to calm me and comfort me and inspire me and inform me.  I was given an oracle--Delta.  The best interpretations that I've found of the Greek Oracle come from this site, and the part that stuck out to me most is this: "Blind conformity to customs is spineless; overly strict adherence to rules is self-defeating."  The words I heard in my heart told me to examine WHY I do what I do.  And to change my practice accordingly.

I'm going to be taking some time.  Dionysus has many faces, and I would like to meditate on and study as many of them as I can.  I'm also going to be doing some research on ritual and the Core Order of Ritual as is used in ADF.  There's a possibility my own devotions and my own practice will change.  Enough to cause me to leave ADF...?  Doubtful, but possible.  We'll see where this leads me.  I have been promised personal insight and a successful practice if I go through with this.  This blog is, in part, an outward train of thought as I do this.

Wish me luck, friends.  Help me with insight.  Help me see things I might not, interpret words and actions as I cannot within my own head.  And, if you will, ask the gods to grant me faith and fire.