Monthly Archives: November 2013

Playing the Vessel

Over the course of the last week, I have twice played meatsuit to familiar spirits.  Last Wednesday, as a part of my extended Samhain rites, I allowed my natal daemon, SKM, to ride me through the school day.  Saturday night, I followed this up by offering the same privilege to my natal genius, ZG.  Both experiences, while much less intense than I had anticipated, were equal parts surreal and informative.  I required only one thing of either of them:  that, in riding me, they not undermine any existing alliances and relationships, a restriction which neither found to be a burden that I can tell.

SKM, it turns out, is a huge fan of poetry (I am not): when I went to a performance with several friends Wednesday afternoon, he was moved to tears.  He is very formal in his language and purposeful in his movements.  When he first entered into me, it was a clear and visceral sensation—particularly odd, as I was driving at the time.  He seemed especially fascinated by the experience of having hands.

ZG, I should not have been surprised to learn, is very, very quiet.  She speaks only when there is something to be gained from it, and then in as few words as possible.  I barely noticed when she came into me, perhaps because our ways of thinking were so similar, possibly because the copious amounts of absinthe I had consumed that night (it was my birthday party) served as a sort of lubricant.

Where SKM was content to observe but willing to act, watching from a distance was ZG’s preference.  Both seem to approve of the people I surround myself with.

Tsu, my first familiar spirit, who had never expressed interest in possessing me before that I can recall, reacted jealously that ZG and SKM had had the opportunity before ze had.  So I’ll be reporting on that experience at some point in the future.

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Orphic Hymns: Taylor vs. Athanassakis

English: Orpheus

English: Orpheus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Classicist Apostolos Athanassakis recently released a new edition of his English translations of the Orphic hymns—previously released in the 1970s and, to the best of my ability to determine, the first new translation since Thomas Taylor’s in 1792.  I’ve been going over the hymns and notes for the last month, and using the hymns in my rituals for the last two weeks.  I must admit, that I’ve been rather surprised by the results.

Firstly, the Athanassakis translation is every bit as different from the Taylor as I would have imagined: no anachronistic rhyming couplets, no 18th century euphemisms or evasions, no substitutions of Roman names for Greek.  Because Classical scholarship has come a long way in the last two hundred years, I do not hesitate to assert that the translations are more accurate for reasons other than the brutal mangling needed to turn Koine iambic hexameter into English rhyming couplets.  And, to my delight, my own translation of the Hymn to Phanes ends up looking pretty solid.

For worship of the Hellenic gods, the new translation is by far superior: epithets are better preserved, and Athanassakis pointedly maintained what he felt to be the religious feel of the texts.  Dionysus, Phanes/Eros, Hermes, and Aphrodite have all responded well in my private rites.

For in/evocation of the Planetary powers, however, and to my extreme surprise, I have found the Taylor translations to yield much better results.  This is partly because, however I may despise them aesthetically, rhyming couplets make great magic.  This may also be partly because the Taylor translations have been so thoroughly incorporated into the Hermetic tradition, and thus provide better access to that magical current.  Further, the actual textual differences between the texts(coincidentally or otherwise) align the Taylor translation more closely with the Planetary powers than with the divine mythology.

Thus, while I must strongly advocate that any Hellenic-flavored neo-Pagan invest in the Athanassakis translation, as well as anyone with a scholarly interest in the hymns, ceremonial magicians have no need to do so.

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