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Orphic Hymns to the Sun: Translations in Action

A great deal of the current work being done with planetary magic right now relies heavily on the use of the Orphic Hymns, chiefly the 18th century translations by Thomas Taylor.  Long-time readers may recall that I am uncomfortable with those translations, and have argued that the more recent and more accurate translations of Apostolos Athanassakis be used instead.  It was not only inevitable, then, but entirely by design that my first week of conjurations put these two translations back-to-back to see what differences might be discerned in their efficacy.

For those magicians who are not also ancient language geeks (how have I not bored you to death?), the gist of it is that the Ancient Greek in which the Orphic Hymns were composed was written in meter rather than rhyme, and hammering the verses into a simple English rhyme-scheme takes some serious torture.  Also, archaeology is amazing, and we know more about the languages of Hellenistic Greece today than Taylor did, so some of his mistakes may be rooted in bad dictionaries.  Some magicians, equally if not more geeky and educated as I, believe that the Taylor translations work better magically for all sorts of reasons, but I ride this hobby horse to hell, regardless.

Taylor’s rhyming cant does, I must concede, a certain something for the brain of the English speaking magician.  We have this whole thing with magic and rhyme, and any good Chaos magician knows how valuable it is to tap into that sort of unconscious power source.  Moveover, between their ready (and free) availability, and the work of Rufus Opus (among others), the Taylor translations of the Hymns are explicitly tied to the planetary rites of the modern Western magical tradition.  All this goes to say that when I used the Thomas Taylor translation of the Hymn to the Sun, by itself, as a part of RO’s Seven Spheres rite, and as a part of conjurations of my own design, I already knew something of what to expect.

The warmth of the Sun responds readily to the hymn, and one may ride that way direct to the planetary current, and the Archangel Michael or the Titan god Helios respond equally readily to accept the offerings laid out before them.

The translations of Apostolos Athanassakis are aimed at the casual enthusiast as much as the professional Classicist, so they are not as sharp-edged as some might fear — the pages are unmarred by indications of broken text in the original, or annotation regarding the academic infighting of one translation versus another.  Moreover, in the particular case of the Hymn to Helios, the differences between the two translations are much less stark and more stylistical than other Orphic Hymns.

The Sun that responded to Aradia and I when we called by this hymn, both by itself and as a part of the Seven Spheres rite, was startlingly different from that which answered to the Taylor translation.  It was tarnished, or perhaps brazen rather than gold.  It was older, more aloof, more … Titanic.  Aradia described the experience as having used a back door to the sun.

It was the Athanassakis translation of the Orphic Hymn to Helios, substituted for Taylor in the Seven Spheres rite, which produced my most vivid experience of the experiment so far: the sensation of having ascended to an old, cooling, and abandoned region of the Sun, and of being observed by a vast red-gold eye, the size of a planet, staring widely at my from within an almost understandably vast head.

 

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Spirits of Earth and Air

Last Friday Aradia and I skidded into KC at the end of a nine day road trip to the South Dakota Badlands and Rocky Mountain National Park.  As tempting as it was, in theory, to turn the road trip into a spiritual retreat, the fact is that I desperately needed the vacation.  And what a vacation it was.   Even after all the travelling I’ve done with Aradia and my family, I had never seen landscapes like the ones I saw over that week-and-a-half: the Karst cartography of central and south Missouri gave way to the Loess hills of northern MO and eastern Iowa before we set off across the grasslands of South Dakota.  We came into the Badlands from the north, via I-90, and I don’t even know how to describe the feeling when the earth dropped off in front of us, only to rise back up in magnificent spires of white and red stone.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

A view from the Juniper Forrest trail.

 

Tragically, as our visit coincided with the Perseid meteor shower, it rained on us briefly every day we were there, despite the arid climate, and every night was overcast.  That unseasonable water made it all the more shocking when I tried to get a sense of the spirits of the place and sensed nothing by Earth and Air: ancient, slow-moving things from whom I sensed not just a vast indifference to human life, but to mortal life in general.  My poetic nature wants to describe that indifference as “bordering on cruelty”, but I think that’s a little bit of projection and a great deal of anthropomorphization; I think the spirits that ancient stone, weathered by the wind and by water whose brief appearances is as destructive to the rock as it is necessary to the survival of plant and animal life, are simply the most alien things I have yet to come into contact with.

The Badlands were vast, alien, and austere.  So far from my lands in which I have invested my power, and from the Water which makes up so much of my nature, I felt empty—sucked dry.  Surprisingly, that feeling was healing and cathartic: my waters have been murky, almost poisoned for the last year, by the stresses of my personal and academic life, and by the rigid forces of the ceremonial I had been practicing.  By travelling outside my own personal bog, I was able to let some of those “contaminants” (to continue the metaphor) dry out and be carried off by the constant winds of the desert.

From there were traveled south and further west, cutting through the top-left corner of Nebraska into eastern Wyoming, where we skirted the foothills into north-eastern Colorado where, after gaining elevation slowly over hundreds of miles, we finally ascended into the mountains proper.  The thin air of the Rockies hit me hard, and I was nearly useless for the first twenty hours or so.  The green and grey vistas of the mountains hit me as hard as the desert had, and I found the magical climate much more to my liking, but even farther from “home” and equally alien.

A View from Alpine Ridge Road.

The Rocky Mountains, as viewed from Alpine Ridge Road.

I don’t know if the Rocky Mountains are actually younger, geologically, than the Badlands, but they felt that way to me.  More patient, and with an indifference to my passing that was somehow less hostile.  Earth and Air still dominated, but Water was more familiar, perhaps even more welcome.  When I finally had the opportunity to perform the Stele of Jeu on the last day—something that I had been trying to fit in for the whole trip—the local spirits wanted reassurance that I was not attempting to dominate them, but they took me at my word that I only sought to purify myself.

By the end of the trip, as we came down off the mountain to get coffee in Denver and struck off eastward for dinner and a hotel in Hays, I finally felt like a person again: scoured clean by spirits of Earth and Air.

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Violence In the Heart of Ecstacy

I am, and will probably be for some years to come, very immature in my worship of Dionysos.  Partly this is due to the fairly limited reading list available to me as a Classicist at my small, Indiana, liberal arts college.  There are exactly two professors in my department, and although they both share my general interest in ancient Graeco-Roman religion, neither emphasize it in their teaching.  So I am still stumbling about in the dark, encountering rites and sources as I fall upon them or they are foisted at me.

Sannion has recently written on the violence of Dionysus.  (And the conversation continues to grow, hence my decision to contribute this post now, rather than after my ritual write-ups.)  Although I, as many others, do not focus on that violence in my personal practice, it is, in fact, one of the many things that draws me to the god.  I take comfort in the fact that he, too, carries a wrath capable of crushing nations in his heart, housed within that beautiful body—as Sannion put it: “handsome … with a crown of ivy, come hither eyes and lips wet with wine. ” 

Unlike the god I may not, must not, unleash that violence.  Violence means something different in today’s world than it did in ancient Hellas—though the consequences for the victims, blamed post facto for their own destruction, are shamefully unchanged.  But I feel vindicated to know that even my beloved Bacchus feels wrath.  And, when he restrains it as he does before Pentheus—giving the twisted, flesh-fearing, petty tyrant chance after chance to see his divinity before finally setting his fate to die (ah, for pronouns as nuanced as those in Attic or Latin!)—I am inspired by the fact that even a god as great as Dionysus can endure such insults before unleashing his ire.  If the dignity of a god can so endure—particularly a god whose Olympian siblings would never have tolerated the first slight, let alone the second, third, and fourth—then perhaps I, too, can have the dignity to respond with my better judgment, lashing out not from rage alone, but only when the defeat of those who seek my own destruction can be assured.

I am not unafraid of the flesh-eating Dionysus: I am not that kind of fool.  I fear to lose myself entirely in the weight of his mask.  Queer as fuck I may be, but my violence will only ever be read as just another white man lashing out.  For me to act on the violence in my heart can only serve to support the patriarchy, to reinforce the role I was assigned at birth, to undermine the trust I have so carefully cultivated in persons more vulnerable than I.  But neither do I flinch at the sight of him: I do not deny the god—or, for that matter, myself—his violent nature. 

To deny the one is, perhaps, an attempt to deny the latter: an attempt to see oneself as transcendent, the embodiment of a merciful, all-loving Divine; to reject the bestial nature which is the inheritance of all mortal (and, I think, most immortal) life.  But rejecting that savagery, trying to deny that it exists, is like any other form of prohibition or asceticism: it creates a space for the undesired thing to thrive, to fester, to swell … and, ultimately, to burst out unwanted and out of proportion. 

Dionysus is not just a god of wine, of happy sex-in-the-woods between the maenads and satyrs who are so inclined (after all, it is only the “virtuous” maidens who are “safe”*: I desire neither appellation).  He is the god of madness: cursed by Hera and cured by initiation into the rites of Rhea/Cybele.  The wine we offer to the gods is his blood.  He is the Render of Flesh and the Devourer of Men.  He is a god of madness, death, and dismemberment every bit as much as a god of ecstasy and Mystery, of queers and of misfits.  All these things go hand in hand: to be queer in this society, every bit as much as in ancient Hellas, is to BE dismembered, either figurative or literally, and often both.


* As described by Teiresias and Cadmus to Pentheus in Euripides’ Bacchae.  Proper citation when I have time to look it up.  Sorry: it’s midterms and I shouldn’t even be ON the Internet.  Likewise for all that follows… no, wait, on second though: do yer goddamn research.  Theoi.com is a good place to start.

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My Liberalia

English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus...

English: Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber (also Liber Pater). Liber (“the free one”) was a god of fertility, wine, and growth, married to Libera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese ...

Statue of Dionysus of the “Madrid-Varese type”. Roman artwork based on a late Hellenistic original (ca. 125–100 BC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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Devotion and Worship: What Is This? I Don’t Even ….

As I have probably mentioned before, I was raised without religion.  Christianity was pervasive and ubiquitous throughout my childhood, of course: on television and in the Cub Scouts, in my textbooks and in everyone else’s assumptions.  I even went to church for Christmas, sometimes, and Easter.  But my upbringing did not include any actual, direct instruction in Christian religious doctrine or practice.

My early explorations in religion, such as they were, were self-guided, and—ultimately—their own undoing.  One hears about That God and the Bible quite a lot in Cub Scouts and in a Kansas elementary school, but always in ways which presume that one already knows what the speaker is talking about.  Now, generally, this is actually a very effective indoctrination tool: the presumption of knowledge backs most people into a corner where they will agree to anything to avoid admitting that they don’t know what you’re talking about.  That never worked on me.  Gathering the impression that the explanations for all the gibberish could be found in a certain book, I picked up the children’s Bible my parents house.  There were rules, I learned (so many rules, but mostly the Big Ten), with dire consequences promised for breaking them.  But I could see that those punishments weren’t being meted out.  The only conclusions that my pre-teen mind could make from this contradiction were that That God must be absent or unjust.

Thus began my decade-and-a-half “phase” as an angry agnostic.  I wanted no part in any gods.  I found the Neo-pagan movement (Wicca and its offshoots, in particular), and although I found a home, of sorts, for myself … I rejected their gods, too.

All of which is to say that I have no early-life framework for worship or devotion.  I have, in fact, often compared worship of any sort to spiritual slavery.  So…. For about twelve years I celebrated seasonal festivals to satisfy needs I can no better articulate now than I could then.  Nor am I yet certain what changed in my head or why, that day in St. Louis when I suddenly called out to Dionysus, Hephaestus, and Apollo.

Six years after that sharp about-face, my altar is home to nine gods and three familiar spirits.  The spirits I have solid working relationships with: although we are still negotiating the precise terms of our arrangements, we are friends and partners.  The gods, though … Dionysus, Hermes, Hephaestus, Baphomet, Rhea, Athena, the Kouros, the Witchmother, and the Sun … some of them are as uncertain what to do with me as I am with them.  Each has reached out to me, or me to them, and made solid contact at least one time.  Rhea was the first power whose voice I could discern calling to me from the darkness; Athena found her way to my altar through a series of omens; the Kouros answered my call when I went searching for meaning in the Divine Masculine, and the Witchmother came to me through the statue I had used to search for the Divine Feminine; Hephaestus stood at my side when I sat at the bench; Hermes is the chief god of the modern Western esoteric tradition; and Dionysus …  well, that’s a slightly longer story.

I recall deciding, in the strange days leading up to that first call, that if I were ever to worship the gods, Dionysus would be among them.  A youthful, effeminate, sometimes cross-dressing god.  The god of wine and ecstasy, of loosing yourself in the beat of the drum, and of running and fucking in the woods.  The god who causes and cures madness, and who disdains the kings appointed by his father Zeus.  Himself an initiate into the Mysteries of an older, more primal goddess.  As long as I have made mead, I have done so in the name of Dionysus; those of you who have had my wine can attest to its improbable efficacy.  Dionysus was the first god to appear before me at my initiation, and he is always the most firmly present when I perform my pentagram rite.  His leopard visits my astral temple.  And yet, at the same time, he is the most inscrutable of the gods upon my altar.  When I seek him out, I cannot find him.  Only Athena has less to say to me when I pour the libations.

I wonder, sometimes, if it would be easier if it were in my nature to devote myself entirely to a single god.  Could I then count on the god to tell me what was wanted of me, and what I would get from it in my return?  If that were my only dilemma, though, I could simply go the other obvious route, joining one of the Hellenistic recon communities.  I could be well-loved there, as an actual Classicist.  But my own UPG is too far afield, and my witchcraft too radical (to say nothing of my feminism) for those groups I’ve seen.

Each of the powers who has come to me has told me a little bit of what I need to do.  Just enough that, with a little bit of luck and creativity, I have (so far) been able to struggle up to the next step.  I make offerings of coffee, candles, wine, and/or mead at least three times a week.  I must not abandon my visionary practice—I must, in fact, escalate it—but I must also have daily planetary ritual.  But the Orphic hymns aren’t quite …. working.  There’s something lacking : something maybe 25 degrees off.  And while they’ve been showing me how to make masks, magically, I’m still trying to puzzle out some of the material components of the process.  And I have to keep with the lunar and solar calendar I have already devoted so much of my life to.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  So far, none of these are hardships (well, except for the occasional extremely hung over Saturday or Sunday dawn offering rite, and they’re usually pretty forgiving if I’m late).  But … there are disparate pieces that I haven’t figured out how to smelt into a cohesive hole.

How do you obey the gods when they talk so little, and you can’t quite hear them when they do?  When you have no background in “religion” as it is so frequently understood?  When your knowledge of history, and the way in which the gods have been deployed to further—or, given a less charitable set of assumptions, participated in and even instigated—injustice in the name of power for as long as there have been priests and kings, makes the whole idea of “religion” more than a little suspect?  When your grip on sanity is adequately shaky that you’re not one hundred percent certain you’re hearing anything but the echoes of your own derangement?  And, perhaps most to the point, where do you find the missing pieces of a ritual practice that has never quite existed in the form you’re working toward?

True story, y’all: I have no fucking idea what I’m doing.

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Full Moon Musings–November 2012

Over the course of the semester three new magical tools have come into my possession: a pentacle, a staff, and a black-handled knife.  The pentacle I picked up at a swap-meet hosted by the local pagan store.  The staff is hand-made by a fine gentleman in the local community, and was given to me as a gift.  The knife was also a gift, a birthday present from another friend here in IMG_5583Sunrise.  These were my first clues that it was time to get back to my basics.  I didn’t ignore the message, per se; I just couldn’t figure out how to enact it in the context of my current workload.

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Project Null is Going Off The Rails

It’s amazing how productive you can be while not sticking to the plan.  My formal daily practice has basically fallen apart in the last weeks, even as my various experiments have increased in breadth and depth.

I have been re-re-reading Liber Lux and am working on several write-ups therefrom.  I have almost finished Jason Miller’s Sorcerer’s Secrets and am in the process of incorporating some of his excellent suggestions into my practice.  Mr. Miller might be slightly annoyed to see him work included in my Chaos experiment—that’s not how he self-identifies—but, really, where is the line between innovative syncretism and Chaos Magick?

Meditation and Dreaming

As I mentioned above, my formal meditation and dream work have basically fallen apart.

Although I have not sat down to meditate deliberately in over a week, I have actually spent hours in trance.  Sitting outside in the cold one day, waiting for a friend, as a trance settled lazily over me for nearly thirty minutes.  I spent five hours at the loom the following day, not even half of which I can remember.  These meditations certainly don’t qualify as the concentrations Peter Carroll (and many other occultists like him) prescribe, but I refuse to concede that they don’t count.  I actually have a whole rant about this planned for the near future.

While my sleep schedule has been restored to the point where I no longer drug myself with chamomile and valerian at 10 o’clock every night, my ability to recall my dreams in the morning is spotty at best.  This is something I have always struggled with, and will probably continue to struggle with for years to come.  Most of my dreams, though—what little I can recall of them—have been clearly mundane: fragmentary remains of my bout with super-hero obsession a couple weeks ago, and my increasing state of holy-fuck-i-need-someone-to-sit-on-my-face.

Shielding

My shielding experiments continue, and I’m fine-tuning a protection talisman. At the suggestion of Chirotus Infinitum in the comments to my last shielding post, I attempted to use the image of a ladybug as shield. The visceral experience was indescribable. And it brought back a series of shape-shifting experiments from my high-school days that I’m in the middle of writing up, and will probably share after I have finished my write-up of Peter Carroll’s chapters on Evocation and Invocation, because they’re highly relevant.

Manifesting My Desires.

While none of last week’s sigils have quite manifested, my experience so far says to wait two weeks before getting antsy.  Also, those are socially complex endeavors, and while I haven’t actually found any new lovers, yet, the value of my social capital (to abuse a metaphor) seems to be rising.

I have another batch, this time aimed just at boosting my social situation, in the works to fire off this afternoon.

In the mean time, I have also been tinkering with my Web of Influence, again: drifting into a trance to tend the threads and make certain that things are moving down the pipeline (to deploy a cliché). Interestingly, though I had not yet consciously begun to incorporate my Web of Influence into my sigil work, I could see my manifesting sigils on the web as glittering lights.

Visionary Practice

I went on a pair of highly fruitful visionary journeys at the Dark and Full Moons that I still haven’t quite parsed.  In the first, I re-established contact with my my chief familiar spirits and discovered, as I had discovered when I was doing some of my work with Elemental Fire, that a portal to Chaos had opened in my Inner Temple.  I didn’t have the nerve to explore it the first night, but I did the second.  Beyond the door was a vast void: not the swirling mass of potentiality I had assumed the Chaos current would appear to me as, but the gaping void of Χαος.  I could barely sense an intelligence to it, it was so vast and alien, but it was definitely aware.

At first, there was nothing there that I could perceive, an I thought that I was walking through a black void like the astral fragment I use to access the Otherworlds.  Slowly, though, the vastness of the space in which I was moving began to dawn on me.  I began to perceive fling things moving through the void at almost unimaginable speed.  There were countless multitudes of them, but the scale Chaos made them seem few and far between.  At that point, Sue, ZG, and SKM joined me, forming a protective triangle, and helping me keep track of where I had come from for when the time came to leave.

We drifted until we came to a lone floating chunk of rock, which we landed on essentially out of my mortal, terrestrial instincts.  Faster than I could think, an insect/crustacean-like creature (I never saw the whole of it), whipped around from the other side of the boulder and impaled me through the heart with a many-jointed limb.  Although we were able to overpower it and reclaim the “blood” that had stuck to its talon, we took that moment to flee back to the Inner Temple.

Gods and Spirits

Since the conclusion of the ceremonial experiment and the Invocation of Baphomet, I now have ten gods and spirits living on my altar.  I speak to fewer than half of them on a regular basis, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.

A few weeks ago, even the gods on my altar demanded a portion of my weekend coffee offerings.  I was happy to oblige, of course: I had only not included them because they had not asked, before, and coffee is such a non-traditional offering that I didn’t wish to offend.  Yesterday, I began incorporating Jason Miller’s Rite of General Offering* into the ritual, and today I will bring back fruit from the cafeteria to add to the offering.

So far, I have rarely asked the spirits I work with for much in the way of manifesting the world I desire.  When I have, though, the results have been spectacular.  When one friend was at risk of being evicted, I got Sue to change the landlord’s mind.  When another needed a specific job, I asked Sue to make sure it happened.  When I was wallowing in a crushing pit of despair last week, I dedicated an evening’s festivities to Dionysus, asking him to purge me of the negativity and obsessive behaviors in which I was engaging; I have since heard that it was the best such party in some time for everyone else there, and I have been pulling out of my emotional morass much more quickly than usual, and am now struggling against a new, but less self-destructive so far, set of obsessive behaviors.

Although I do still intent to built my home defense servitor, and ideally do so before the end of the semester, I think it best that I tend to these relationships before adding anyone or anything else to my altar.

a Change in Plans

Although it might not seem so from my previous weekly reports, my experiment in Chaos Magick has been more productive that I would have anticipated at this early stage. It has also been productive in ways I ever could have imagined, many of which are exceptionally difficult to articulate—a dilemma with which I imagine all my mage-blogging peers can identify.  Some of them have come to light today, some I may never be able to talk about.

I originally conceptualized Project Null as a simple follow-up to the ceremonial experiment: a way of continuing my formal study of the Western magical tradition and of not loosing the momentum I had built up over the course of the previous year.  I set the time frame for the ceremonial experiment at a year because I was originally using Penczak’s year-and-a-day system as a map.  I set a year time frame for Project Null because that was how long the ceremonial experiment had lasted.

It seems, however, that Chaos Magick is even less suited for such a survey than ceremonial magic was.  And I haven’t finished processing or internalizing a number of the lessons from that experiment yet.  And this semester is much, much busier than I had anticipated.  And Project Null is digging things up from my youth that I haven’t though of in a decade or more.  And each and every one of these things deserves my full attention.

Project Null is not being cancelled.  But the deadlines are.  This shit is way too interesting to not let the phenomenal organic growth I’m experiencing progress at its own rate.  Hopefully y’all will understand that this is a carefully considered tactical decision, not just a drunken satyr flaking out.

——

* – Miller, Jason.  The Sorcerer’s Secrets.  Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books (2009).  pp53-5

ETA: Jason Miller reference clarified and cited properly.

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Vision of Thanateros

Back in Kansas City, before I officially started Project Null, I was making my last trip out to Camp Gaea.  I was floating on lake Onessa, with just enough of me out of the water to keep from drowning, tranced out and seeking the Initiation of Water.  The below NSFW image is one to two visions I had that afternoon.

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HPF 2012: The Blessings of Dionysus Upon you All

 

"Bacchus" by Caravaggio.

“Bacchus” by Caravaggio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flannigan’s Right Hook was playing their cover of Paint it Black as Aradia and I stumbled back from one of the furthest-flung encampments at Gaea, still high from our first shamanic journey.  That was Friday night of HPF 2009, our first year together; they played again the following year on the Sunday night main-stage, to which they returned  this year.  I missed the first part of this show, too, eventually abandoning half of my encampment to their face-painting shenanigans.

After the quiet of rest of the festival, walking up to the stage was like running face-first into a cacophonic wall of neon light and raucous sound.  A beautiful, much-needed wall, the impact with which brought me back to 2k9 and ‘10, returning to those moments in cyclical time.  The guitars, the cello, the electric fiddle … it was catharsis, pure and powerful.

I needed it desperately.  The festival, to that point, had had its ups and downs.  The main ritual, the day before, had been an utter disaster from which we were all—despite the passage of twenty-four hours, multiple cleansing rituals, and the completion of the public closing ritual just hours before—still recovering.  Even the land was stained.

So I stood there, vibrating with the music, and trying to let go.  To let go of my frustration with the Sacred Experience Committee.  To let go of my frustration with my camp-mates, most of whom had not yet made it to the pavilion[1].  To let go of my desire for the festival—which I have been attending since I was eighteen years old, to which I have introduced probably a dozen people at this point, and to which I had brought three “virgins” this very year—to be perfect, and just enjoy it as it was in the then and the now.  Perfection doesn’t exist in this world.  I’m skeptical that it exists anywhere.  …. So why, then, do I get so upset when things turn out to be less than perfect?

The music was amazing, the light show was a blast, and I was drinking thoroughly-blessed wine.  And yet, I was still struggling to find the fun.  My ambivalence must have been clear.  When Aradia asked me if I was alright, I didn’t lie.

Aradia and Aurora had been to one of the workshops I’d missed on account of my work exchange obligations.  The workshop was on aura cleansing and chakra balancing.  Together, as I stood there listening to the music, they worked over my energetic bodies until I was almost in tears.  Finally, something inside me broke loose, the tears came, my aura opened up, and I was able to let go and find the fun.  Power filled me, and a few sudden insights.

The band was clearly having the time of their lives, too.  Somehow, bottles of mead kept finding their way on stage.  At one point, the band stopped to toast the audience.  I raised my glass and toasted them back: “The blessings of Dionysus upon you all.”

My wine, as I said, was well-blessed.  Recognizing that I was not the only one in my encampment stained by the miasma of the previous night’s ritual, I took the box of wine Aurora had offered for the purposes, and called upon Dionysus to bless it so that all who drank of it would be purged of the stain and incited to sacred revelry.  I wish I’d thought to wright down the specifics, but I kinda got lost in the moment.  I completed the blessing by pouring a libation in a circle around the box; suddenly, it was “hot” to the touch.

“Holy shit,” said Aradia.  “What did you just do?”

When I toasted the band, my blessing spread to their bottles.  But one of the things about working with gods and spirits, I guess, is that once you start talking to them, they’re listening more than you realize.   And I had said “upon you all.”  Little lights started going off in the audience as the blessing spread to those bottles.  And then little bells started ringing in my head as other bottles throughout camp were lighted with the same blessing, too.

It was about that time that the rest of our encampment showed up, beaming and with faces painted.  The wine flowed liberally and, when the concert was over, we found a secluded place to load a bowl while they lit the bonfire.

The tenor of the evening was changed, radically, and for the better.


1 – I love you guys, but you can’t spend five days camped with anyone and not end up a bit frustrated at some point.

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Dionysus Miscellanea

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese ...

Statue of Dionysus of the "Madrid-Varese type". Roman artwork based on a late Hellenistic original (ca. 125–100 BC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, folks, it’s the end of the semester.  While I’m buy writing papers for the next few days, I may not get another chance to post.  In the meantime, check out some of the fun facts I that my research turned up but which I couldn’t work into my paper on the cult of Dionysus in Hellenistic Greece and the Roman Republic:

* Although most often described as the son of the mortal princess Semele, Dionysos is also said to be the son of Persephone, a relationship which explains his cthonic attributes (Burkert 1985.294)  Those familiar with Orphic mythology already know this.

* The thyrsos wand, associated with Bacchic worship, may—according to Burkert—draw its name from association “with a god attested in Ugarit, tirsu, intoxicating drink, or alternatively with the Late Hittite tuwarsa, vine…”, and that the very name Bacchus may be drawn from a Semitic word for wailing, drawing a parallel with the wailing over the death of the Mesopotamian god Tammuz. (Burkert 1985 p.163)

* Dionysus shares the thyrsos wand with Artemis—the only other deity to use the wand in their rites. (Burkert 1985 p.223)

* Dionysus may have been depicted on herms, either as himself or synchretised with Hermes (Burkert 1985 p.222)

* Prefiguring later synchretisms, the worship of Dionysus was influenced by the cult of Osiris as early as 660 BCE (Burkert 1985 p.163), an association later affirmed by both Herodotus and Plutarch, the latter of whom also equated Dionysus with Serapis. (Martin 1987.91)

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Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Martin, Luther H. Hellenistic Religions: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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