Calendars are a problem. The more of them you have, the harder they are to match up. At this stage in my life, I’m struggling to reconcile four: the Gregorian, the academic, the lunar, and the Wheel of the Year. Sometimes, it can be a fucking mess, especially as I try to splice in ancient festivals AND keep everything relevant to the life I actually live.
So, it was very much to my delight last year when I learned of an interesting coincidence: namely that Saint Patrick’s Day (an “Irish” American drinking festival, for those who don’t live in the USA) and the Liberalia fall at about the same time. Even more fortuitous, both coincide with the beginning of Spring Break (an academic American drinking festival) at my particular institution of higher education. My celebrations last year were impromptu and (mostly) solitary. But I did start a batch of mead with this year in mind.
Now the date approaches and I watch with some curiosity as Sanion anticipates Anthesteria. I am trying to find time to do research into what “traditional” festivities would have included, and then decide / beg for divine inspiration as to which elements to maintain, which to adopt from other festivals, and what to make up whole cloth.
There will be wine, of course, and mead: both drinking the mead I started last year and will bottle in about a week, and the starting of a new batch for next year. And feasting: I never open the Sunrise Temple without providing food. Offerings aplenty to the God, and a special altar erected to him for the occasion.
But what else? I don’t really have the resources to put on a play of any kind, and playing movies in the background seems … a weak
substitute at best. (Besides which, all the appropriate movies that I own will be played for the same people three weeks prior at my Midsem party.) Perhaps I can encourage participants to declaim from the various hymns to Dionysus; a lot of them are thespians, they’ll probably get a kick out of it. And should I bring in elements of the Urban Dionysia, which falls about the same time of year (depending on the vagaries of the lunar calendar) but much less fortuitously in terms of free time to devote to worship?
I’m thinking that there may be some ritual (and playful) flogging, both to purify and to excite (though, contrary to Pausanius’ Skiereia, it will be everyone getting lashed). Possibly arts-and-crafts, especially the making and donning of masks and thyrsoi. I may encourage cross-dressing, in honor of the god’s youth spent hiding from Hera, and in memory of Tieresias and Cadmus, who donned women’s clothing that they might participate in the rites when the other men of Thebes followed Pentheus’ lead in denying Dionysus.
Hopefully everyone will have enough fun to get naked, because … Maenads and Satyrs, duh. Should that happen, face and body paint are great games.
I have numerous Tarot decks, and it might be an interesting occasion on which to employ the oracular powers of Dionysus. Also, the ouija board. (Of course I have a ouija board. Don’t look at me that way. You have one, too.)
All this would be just a little easier, of course, if I had a more concrete relationship with the god. When I do my thrice-weekly offering rites, I hail him as I pour the libations: “Dionysus, Liber Pater, Lord of the Vine, source and surcease of madness.” But if those things were all that he is to me, then I would not need to have a festival: I would simply meditate on what passes for my sanity whilst drinking until I cry. But Dionysus is more than that. So much more.
I struggle in my search for how best to honor him.