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Pagan Blog Project: Dionysos part 1: The Agony

Welcome to week one of the D’s. And I decided that I’m going to write about the same thing for both weeks. Of course. Hi, my name is Nuri and I’m a Dionysian. I’m a little god-proud. This is not a perfect essay by any means, so feel free to argue in the comments.

Dionysos: The Agony

So, my notes for this entry start off with “Fuck it, Dionysos is dangerous”.  and I mean it, he really really is.

What I want to do with this two-part entry is provide an introduction to Dionysos via a basic duality: Agony and Ecstasy. There is of course, a lot in between but it’s a start. So, again, fuck it, Dionysos is dangerous. To really honor Dionysos you have to bring madness in your life and let go of the structures that you have understood to be true for your entire life.

On a surface level, this just sounds awesome. I’ll be free from everything that’s kept me down my entire life. Some might realize that this also means that everything that supports you can be broken down too. If you can’t manage this, well, there’s a reason Dionysos is the god of madness. I’ve often wondered if the rate of depression is higher than the average in Dionysians, during the times when that breakdown isn’t managed well. Would be interesting.

Dionysos is the breaker of bonds, yes, but freedom from bonds isn’t the freedom to do whatever you want. What happens isn’t utopia, because you are left with an enormous responsibility: You have to replace the restrictions, the rules and your boundaries. It’s freedom, yes, but it’s a terrible type. Dionysos takes your worldview and breaks it into little pieces. If you can’t rebuild it…well, it can be enough to find the darker side of Dionysos’s madness.

Dionysos does not shy away from taking people past the brink; he’s been there himself. When Hera finds the young God, he goes mad (somehow) and wanders across Greece, Egypt, Syria, and all the way to India. Along the way with his throng of followers,  he teaches his ways: cultivation of vines and wine, creating villages and meeting people, and being cured of his madness by Kybele or Rhea, depending on the myth. Those who saw Dionysos for who he is and his divinity were blessed, and the Kings and sailors who didn’t, who not just didn’t honor him but denied him, were driven past that point, and none more famous than Pentheus.

Dionysos does not just punish Pentheus for his transgression, he does so by sending his mother to madness, and she tears her own son apart. Pentheus was terrified of the mad women, and is killed in what has to be the most offensive way possible to him.

And you can be careful, you can have the best of intentions and still struggle and hedge on just this side of madness. Here’s my own story.

My interest in Dionysos had been pretty strong since I started in Hellenic Paganism, but it was still mostly academic and mostly one-sided. Until I slipped into a near-trance like state in the bathtub, and when I came out it took hours to get into a state where I was able to coherent, and days to recover from a depressive funk. Turns out, ecstasy turns to agony quickly when you aren’t prepared for it. As academically interested I was, I was not prepared to have the support beams knocked out. In many ways, I’m still recovering from that single experience, and if I hadn’t had other structures to cling to (schoolwork and going to classes is calming) and to help me build back up,  I don’t know if I would be able to figure this out now.

But I have found this experience worth it. Dionysos is dangerous, but so many good and worthy things are.

Next week? The Ecstasy, and possibly the reasoning of why I am the worst Dionysian ever.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Culture and, well, Cock.

At last, caught up. And we are on the C’s. I had fun with this one, but I’m looking forward to only doing one at a time.

Cultures

To be pagan means that you have to explore cultures. Modern, Ancient, near and far, open and closed and all in between.

Wait, closed? What the heck is that?

One of the biggest complaints against Eclectics is that they explore things shallowly, and not making the connections in context. And one of the big things about our modern internet culture is about being open and free to make connections where we see fit. This is wonderful, reinforcing that humanity is closer to each other than we want to believe sometimes, and can be somewhat  othering-destroying and unifying. There’s a problem though, what do we do when the  cultures we want to explore say no, this is not yours?

This is one aspect of a closed culture, and an ethical question that pagans will probably have to face at some point. We don’t like being told no. At least I don’t, but I also feel it’s important to respect cultural boundaries. It’s basically a question of do your research when you are working with a culture not your own.

In my own ethical thinking, I deal a lot with context: Where is the closed culture coming from? Most of the time, it’s based on wanting to preserve their uniqueness. Sometimes though, it’s more fear of change. I do see a difference between the two, and I distinguish the two by seeing what happens when someone within the culture wants to make a change. A Closed Culture will evaluate and make room, a fearful one with want to squash it out.

There’s no perfect answer to how to work with culture not your own, and especially closed ones. The best actions I’ve found is to start with a foundation of respect, research and active listening.

 

Cock

Now, I’m not as unabashed a cock worshiper  as Sannion is. But when you get down to it, Ancient Greece was all about the cock. Phallus everywhere, and trust me, I have an English degree, we are trained to see phallus where there is none, and the Greeks? They loved it. They piled representations of cock in baskets, stacked rocks for symbolism, and because there are gods in all things, there’s Priapus.

The hammer is my penis.

So hey, I’ve got a god with a giant dick who guards gardens and goats, and merchant sailors. And what protects can hurt, and myth is full of sexual assault, rape, and just plain sexual WTF-ness. Cock guards the boundaries, and, yep, penetrates them.

If you are going to be pagan, if you are going to embrace the aspects of paganism that deal with nature, fertility, ecstasy and mystery, you got to get comfortable with the penis. It’s an omnipresent symbol and fact of reality. Cock is at the beginning of all things. Want to play an awkward pagan game? Which came first, the dick or the womb?

Also, cocks are fun to play with.

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Building and Bromios

Building

Yep, I’m cheating on this one. Building, why building? In the way I’m thinking of it, it’s not the physical building at all, but the metaphorical action. I am building relationships with gods and with mortals, I am building new skills and laying them upon my foundation.

Hellenics have a concept of arete, or excellence. You really can’t do that without a commitment to building. If you seek excellence in what your word and actions, you start with very little  and build as you go. I’m learning how to weight lift, and I’ll probably soon turn it into a devotional activity (build a ritual around it), and I started not even able to deadlift the bar. A few months later, and I’ve hit my first milestone, getting over a hundred pounds.

It’s the same when you devote yourself to a religion, to gods, or whatever mix. You start with whatever you have and just keep going.

Bromios

Just another epithet of Dionysos….what, you thought I’d go into Bacchus already? That can wait until we hit the D’s. This one means loud, boisterous — and often relating to thunder. As the son of Zeus, this is appropriate with multiple layers of meaning.

Now, I’m the worst Dionysian ever — but friends keep telling me that parties, a true outpouring of the Dionysian spirit, are pretty loud and boisterous. And drumbeats over a large  space sound very much like a good thundering.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Apollo/Artemis

I’ve been hounded into doing this. Which is fine by me, all the merrier to get me actually on a blogging schedule instead of random life updates. I’m a few weeks behind on the prompts, so I’m going to combine the letters and get caught up that way.

The prompts for A are first up, and I’ve chosen to go with Apollo and Artemis as the obvious first choices. Pictures are from the ever amazing Theoi.com.

 

Apollo
figure vase of Apollo

What force, what sudden impulse thus can make
The laurel-branch, and all the temple shake!
Depart ye souls profane; hence, hence! O fly
Far from this holy place! Apollo’s nigh;
He knocks with gentle foot; The Delian palm
Submissive bends, and breathes a sweeter balm:
Soft swans, high hov’ring catch the auspicious sign,
Wave their white wings, and pour their notes divine.
Ye bolts fly back; ye brazen doors expand,
Leap from your hinges, Phoebus is at hand.
~from  Callimachus ‘s Hymn to Apollo, translated by H. W. Tytler

Apollo has long been considered the most Greek in character of all the Hellenic gods. Indeed, reading through a list of what he is interested in, is an insight into what the Ancient Greeks thought about themselves. Truth, light, prophecy, medicine and the arts…not to mention through the fruits of those arts, masculine beauty. And I think these things aren’t all that removed from what we consider important either.

For all this, he’s also complex. Like layers upon layers. He embodies that idea of those that heal can also harm. He’s the god of healing, but also the god of plagues. Like his father, he has a complex love life. He’s a skirt chaser, but rarely does he get the girl or nymph — and one of my favorite parts is that the women he loves change because of this chase.  Things don’t usually end well for them, but a high flung love affair rarely does anyways.

Here is a god who shines a light on the people who follow him, and inspires them to perform at their best. What I have found to be the best way to follow and honor Apollo is to be your very best and live up to the changes that happen when he has shined that light. Bonus points if it’s in his sphere of influence: music, arts, medicine, and of course, divination. Unlike say, Dionysos, a more ordered approach is usually more well-received.

My personal experience with Apollo has lessened in the past few years, but not to any particular detriment or poor relationship. Gods can just come and go as needed. But Apollo is the god that lead me to Hellenic paganism, through a series of signs and dreams during my first year of college (crows just kept following me around. The same ones. College crows may not be scared of people, but they don’t stay outside the same dorm window for days at a time, while you are having Apollo-themed dreams). No matter what, Apollo is the god who gave me over to his family, and I’ve been happy in their sandbox since.

 

Artemis

Artemis with Bow, figure vase

Muse, sing of Artemis, sister of the Far-shooter, the virgin who delights in arrows, who was fostered with Apollo. She waters her horses from Meles deep in reeds, and swiftly drives her all-golden chariot through Smyrna to vine-clad Claros where Apollo, god of the silver bow, sits waiting for the far-shooting goddess who delights in arrows.
Homeric Hymn to Artemis, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White.

Unlike a lot of people, Artemis has never been a goddess that I’ve connected with. As the female twin, I can begin to approach her that way, but I think we’ve always been at odds with each other. I’ve long for attachment and she wants none of it. I see why people, women especially love and honor her. There’s so much  to admire,  a woman who wants to try to live for herself and not at the mercy of anyone else. She’s femininity at its base, primitive roots:  nature and childbirth, animals and arrows, and a dangerous beauty. And she will fiercely defend her own autonomy, by force when needed.

But there’s good reason that women have been drawn to her, and I don’t think it has anything to do with her Moon connection. It’s that she’s choosing for herself how to be defined, and it’s not by another person (except perhaps, her Father. But how can we escape being defined by our families?) but by her actions. She’s defined by what she does –hunting and playing in the woods with friends, assisting in childbirth. And she skirts between childhood and motherhood, the teenager seeking out her place in the world. What woman wouldn’t identify with that?

So what does this mean if you want to pay her honor? In daily life, be yourself and don’t be ashamed or afraid of it, no matter if you link yourself to another person and go in your own way. Develop your own interests and individuality. I’ve found that there are gods and goddess that respond best to living our their values in modern daily life, and Artemis is one of those for me. For her I be the best sister, and try not to let other people define me too much, and not at the expense of my own values and interests.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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I will come with the brights of their eyes…

My radio silence has been purposeful. A few weeks ago, I took time to have a real in-depth ritual, not just an offering, for Dionysos. I haven’t had a huge need lately, like our relationship had reached a point where contact wasn’t needed on the level it was before.

Gods come and go, so I didn’t consider this a bad thing. But I think this ritual was really needed for our god-mortal relationship. So I pushed my boundaries; I stayed up late, I drank, then cleansed myself both physically and mentally and approached my altar.

I don’t really like to talk much about what I do during ritual, because while I start off with a traditional Hellenic structure (I love the traditional structure, because it is very much like what I grew up with in the Catholic Church, and so I gravitate towards it naturally now), the content really will vary. I offer to Hestia as I light my candles and incense, pour wine for Dionysos and open with prayer.  Then dancing, as much as I can stand, enough to link my mind and body together, which ends with communion with Dionysos.

I have a hard time expressing the emotional intensity and just what happens during the moments of communion and experience, and I think that’s really the point. You have to experience it for yourself to really understand why I do it and why I follow this god.

I do however, want to share one of the concepts I got out of that ritual. One thing I really struggle with is that I’m not an outgoing person; not a drinker; not the sort of person you’d think of when you’d picture a Dionysos devotee. I’m a homebody and while utterly delightful, in truth, a little awkward. But the concept I got was to inspire within others, facilitate within others, what I cannot be myself.

Maybe that’s my work to do; prepare the way, make things ready and such so that others can experience the joy of my god. Even if they don’t believe, people like a party.

I’ve also been silent because we had a very intense scare with my mother. She was in ICU for two days after not being able to breathe and congestive heart failure, and spent a week on the general heart floor, getting tests done. They just wouldn’t let her leave, her blood pressure kept spiking. I spent the first weekend up with them, helping manage my brother and visiting mom. I’ll probably go back next weekend too.  They found a 90% blockage in her heart, in the area usually called the Widowmaker (cheerfully relayed via text message by my dad, as he was giving us updates. There is always time for trivia in my family),  and put in a stent. She’s home now, but has to make serious changes, ones that didn’t stick when she first was diagnosed with diabetes.

I hope it really hit home for my middle brother as well, as he is rapidly on the same path as my mother. We were all scared, and it really reinforced why I work out, why I watch what I eat, because in our family, weight and health are connected. I’m a firm believer in health at every size, but also know what is good for my own health.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s that time of year…

It’s that time of year when the weather changes, and slowly, you can feel the coming onslaught and dread.

…wait, dread? Oh yes, because as the first snow hits my Central Illinois town, another important season begins.

It’s ibuprofen season! Yes, that wonderful time of year when chronic pain becomes far more than just an annoyance and blossoms into something that affects my daily life.

I wonder if, in the spirit of modern paganism and ritualizing daily life, I should create a festival.

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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A short burst of Maenad Activity

The bathtub continues to be a place of inspiration. A few entries ago I mentioned that I haven’t felt Dionysos lately. Well, yup, that’s changed. If someone can explain to me why periods of Maenadic Activity happen while I am bathing, I will be forever thankful, because that’s just weird to me. Sort of. I think the naked helps.

I can’t remember all that came out of my mouth as I acted, but here is the bit that stuck with me afterwards.

He does not care if you are pretty,
nor if you are vulgar.
All women are made beautiful when called by the madness.

So take that, unedited and unrefined, as you will.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Coming and Going

“This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.”
DH Lawrence

I need to admit it, I haven’t been feeling or hearing from Dionysos lately. Even though I am having really good dance practice, which is my usual devotional practice for him, I think I have entered a time where he has gone from my dark forest. And it is hard to have that courage to not rant and rave at this. I mean, I know I have a stronger and more aware connection during the winter and dark months, and that’s why this summer has felt a little low, but it always feels like a profound loss.

At the same time, Hestia has been really strong over the past couple of months. I’ve really been growing into her domestic cult, into making a house a home. I’ve expanded my skills! Added new dishes to my cooking, getting into cleaning and organizing, supporting my husband, embracing simplicity. The hearth is strong and my relationships are strong. This little fledging practice of mine is truly blossoming.

And I think, as the seasons turn, this too will provide a platform for a deepening and different experience of Dionysos, who calls the women out of their domesticity to revel and partake of the wine and his mysteries.

I am truly blessed to have heard and accepted with courage these two gods, the cornerstones of my life.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Altars and Shrines

Took me long enough, right?

First up: Marriage Shrine Part one. Almost all of the items come from the wedding, or were presents while we were dating. Others are just pretty or have family significance. The picture is our favorite from the wedding, and it wasn’t even from our photographer, but Nick’s aunt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage Shrine Part Two: A poem written by a friend for our wedding, the dried roses and ribbons from the scavenger hunt proposal, and curios from other friends weddings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hermes Mini-shrine, on top of my jewelry box. I’ve had this key forever, I have no idea where it came from but it’s great for Hermes, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The combined space for Aphrodite and Hera. Aphrodite’s is the seashell and perfume bottle, the rest is for Hera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two pictures of the main/working Altar. And my mass of peacock feathers.
You can also see my prayer beads. I really love the simplicity of this altar arrangement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is the roommates derpy Corgi, Ein. He barged in while I was taking pictures. And leapt on top of the bed as if he had agility!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Hellenic Devotional? Your thoughts?

Growing up, one of my favorite times of the year (depending on whether or not I was an eye-rolling teenager) was advent. My family lit candles on an advent wreath, sang and read from a little booklet that was available from the Church. These little readings were meant to focus our thoughts on the birth of Jesus, and prepare our minds and thoughts for Christmas. They were never very long, maybe 5 minutes at most, and it was a great little time out for the day.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t a little ADHD brat.

But a project that’s been weighing on my mind is to do a little devotional booklet like this one — a month-long one. Little stories, prayer suggestions, meditation on values, gods — that sort of thing. Partially for myself, but also a community resource. The Hellenic community has gotten into devotional anthologies in a big way for poetry and short stories, but not really like this. I’d like to offer it in an e-book format.

What I want to ask the community at large is: What would you want to see in something like this? A Theme? Suggested topics? And what do you think about the project in general.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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