Anthesterion 5

•February 5, 2014 • Comments Off

The monthly holy day for my dream spirit. I sat before his shrine in my bedroom (his is the only shrine in that room) with herbal tea in my raven mug and ate a small piece of amanita slathered in honey. Strange, dark music playing, my mind rapidly began reeling. Too rapid to be the actual physical effects of the mushroom, but that never seems to matter.

We didn’t talk – he doesn’t talk, per se, but communicates effectively nonetheless. I was reminded of a particularly harrowing trance experience I’d had…oh, it must be around a year ago now… go to check my journal and indeed, it would be a year as of the following day (today). Sometimes my spirits are better at keeping track of these things than I am, this is not the first time I’ve been reminded of such a date by one of Them. That experience haunts me to this day, but looking back I think it cleared the way for a lot of what came afterwards. It was initiatory, but that sounds better than “I think I may seriously be dying” and coming to, wild-eyed, unable to recognize the face of my partner trying to bring me back.

After awhile (who knows how long when there’s amanita and a spirit steeped in dreamworlds?) things wound down, I read my latest Girls Underground book, and went to sleep, a sleep filled – unsurprisingly – with dreams so vivid that it took me a good 30 minutes on waking this morning to adjust to this world again.

Anthesterion 4

•February 3, 2014 • Comments Off

With Hermes’ shrine lit up and His offering of lager set out, I began preparing for my (slightly delayed) Candlemas rite. I lit candles in every room of the house, and especially ones in front of the bear and all the most powerful of the animal spirits living in my house (the ones still closely tied to their physical remains of bone or preserved skin). This marks the time of bears coming out of hibernation; since Bear is often considered King of the other forest animals – at least in the Finno-Ugric tradition which informs this part of my practice – I usually honor all of them along with Bear (and more specifically, my own bear, who is very dear to me). I also laid out an offering of dark, Slavic beer for Veles, who is connected to this ritual both through St. Blaise and by His own connection to the bear.

I lit the charcoal in the mortar I use for smudging and brought it with me to the adyton, where I set down an offering of nuts, dried berries and honey for my bear. With candles as the only light, I began burning a mixture of alder, birch, amanita and uva ursi, offering it to each animal in turn, along with my own energy in the form of my singing voice. I walked through the house stopping at not only the more “alive” animals but every remnant that I have, even those in the form of jewelry or art. For those I had found and cleaned myself, I paused to remember the circumstances of our meeting, and the connection I feel to them. Keeping their memories is part of this work with bones.

Now only the candles in front of Hermes, Veles, the Hunt and Bear remain lit, though I can still smell the herbs burning in the adyton, and I find myself disproportionately tired from the brief but intense expenditure of energy. It feels right, though, to feed these spirits in the way They seem to wish, to honor Them, to remember.

Anthesterion 2

•February 1, 2014 • Comments Off

Today I took a walk to a little patch of wetlands that was the first place I found which had a strong affinity with my daimon, when I first came to Eugene so many years ago. I hadn’t been there in awhile, since it had become overrun with homeless camps and trash. I’d heard they’d cleaned it up, and went to see. I first approached the small pond where we’d done several nymph rituals, and it was awful – trees practically clear-cut, in full view of the busy road rather than secluded in the woods. No sign of wildlife, where before there had been herons, nutria….I ate my lunch there with a bit of sadness and left half of it in the traditional spot nonetheless, hoping the spirits could gain some benefit from it.

Fortunately, the next section of wetlands across the road was much better – missing about half the trees and all the undergrowth, but still resonating with a numinous atmosphere (although somewhat different than before), and entirely clean of human debris, which felt good. Before exploring, I climbed the hill to the spot connected with my daimon, and did my usual small rite and made more offerings. I shared the hill with a small flock of Canada geese, which happened to serve as an answering omen to a question I’d come with.

After awhile I walked back down the hill (as a much, much larger flock of geese at the next pond suddenly and impressively took to flight) to that numinous patch of woods and wandered through it. As I was leaving, I turned back for a moment after remembering earlier intentions, and played a song for the spirits on my bone flute. Whereupon I looked down at the path and saw a single animal leg bone where I had not seen anything before. I took it with me as a gift, and headed home.

The Flood

•January 31, 2014 • Comments Off

“….I’ve been thinking a lot about Deukalion’s dead which are honored during it. A lot of people tend to think it’s a fairly random insertion into the festival but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years about Anthesteria it’s that nothing is random when it comes to this festival.” – Sannion


Lenaia cracks the ice.

With Anthesteria comes the flood.

Anthesterion 1

•January 31, 2014 • Comments Off

I woke from a dream (one minute before my alarm) in which I was watching a music video I’d never seen before, and the chorus – I realized on waking – was a message about the significance of the ritual I was about to do. Holding that in my mind, I lit the candles on Dionysos’ shrine and began getting ready. I donned my usual mainadic robes, heavy waterproof boots, my stephanos, and a hooded cowl since it was still misty and might rain. I took only my keys, the lyrics to my song, and a bottle of sparkling wine, and left the house in the pre-dawn half-light.

Hellebores were blooming along my path, and the verdant leaves of daffodils announced they would be next. I had waited later than usual this year to celebrate Lenaia, not only because of my personal situation, but because we’ve had a colder-than-normal winter and it didn’t feel like the right time yet. But finally the rains had returned, and the first stirrings of spring were in the air. And today was the Noumenia, which I always set aside for Dionysos, who comes first.

I climbed the steep hill up to the reservoir on quiet streets, no one else in sight. When I got to the muddy field at the top, I paused to catch my breath so I could bring my full power to the words I was about to sing – a string of His epithets meant to call Him up from the Underworld. The form and tune, though not the exact words, of this song were given to me by Him years ago, and each time I sing it, it becomes more powerful. Usually, I sing up the sun at the top of that hill, but this morning I sang up the rain instead, which began to fall more steadily just as I finished.

My voice still reverberating in the dawn silence, I then popped open the wine – a not-so-subtle symbol of sexual release as well as the emergence of new life in spring – drank a draught, and poured out the rest among the budding leaves. Then I headed home to get ready for the rest of my day.

Hail Dionysos, Opener of the Door.

my new, more primal Dionysos shrine

my new, more primal Dionysos shrine

view when sitting at the shrine

view when sitting at the shrine

“When you tear open your chest, you should find nothing in your heart other than the image of the deity to whom you are devoted.”


•January 29, 2014 • Comments Off

Well, I can’t say I didn’t ask for it. I spent three months calling the Wild Hunt to me, with ritual and song and offerings and prayer, through my spirits and Odin and even Dionysos. And one by one, things were stripped from me, both human and spiritual relationships radically changed or ended altogether, and after Yule I hit a wall. I could go no further the way I had been, and no matter how much I had thought I was liberated, I was still clinging to some old and detrimental habits of practice and thinking. So I did something radical. I did nothing.

For the last five weeks or so, I dropped everything. ALL my practices, even the small daily things. ALL attempts to connect with my gods and spirits. ALL the things that seemed to make me *me*. I took on a temporary new name. I changed the way I dressed and acted. I read different books. And I sat with the paralyzing fear that this would ruin everything.

Now, this is not an approach I would advocate for everyone – though some form of it could be a useful “re-boot” in many people’s lives. In fact, some people need MORE practices and taboos and discipline, not less (or none). But this was the polar opposite of everything I was inclined to do, and it was definitely time for a shake-up. And while a Dionysian always rises to the challenge to be more free, even from themselves….

It was horrible. It was one of the most difficult ordeals I have ever endured – I would much rather hang on hooks pierced into my flesh than do this, would much rather walk on fire. But an ordeal is meant to strike at what’s most difficult for the individual, and this was it for me. I had become too attached to a certain way of doing things, and it was dangerously close to ruining my ability to actually do them at all.

I won’t go into the revelations I had during this period, or my exact issues, or what I have learned, or what I’ll be doing next. That is all rather personal, and not relevant to anyone else. But I did want to mention this Not-Doing experiment here (yes, the term is from Castaneda), because the idea itself could be helpful to someone else. Einstein said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sometimes you need to break the pattern, and break it hard. This is a very scary, but very effective way to do that. You just stop being you, until you feel a deep shift happen. It may be days, weeks, months, but it will happen.

This was a leap of faith for me. Faith in myself, in who I really am, and faith in my gods and spirits, and that our relationships (while founded on reciprocity) would not disappear if I let go for a little while. Especially since, as my partner kept reminding me, during this period doing nothing WAS doing the Work, letting go of everything – even those things I believed were necessary to be close to Them – was what was necessary to become TRULY connected. I missed Them, I missed doing ritual, I missed the hundred different tiny ways I included Them in my life … but as things begin again for me now, I find my whole approach and perspective changed, and an exciting new level of intimacy with Them and immersion in my Story, in ways I could have never predicted.

Dionysos is all about ekstasis, and this was in many ways as far outside of myself – and for as long – as I have ever been. It changed me, it changed my religious life, it changed my relationships significantly, it was terrifying and heart-breaking and at times really really boring, and I am so glad I took that leap, because it showed me the core of things. And it is powerful.

“Strange” feelings?

•January 21, 2014 • 3 Comments

It must be so different in the mind of a normal person. I stumbled upon this piece in Aeon Magazine, where the author (Ken MacLeod) describes two strange feelings he has had a few times in his life, and wonders where they came from and why.

The first is basically just a feeling of Presence in a beautiful landscape – something he only experienced when younger and not since:

“….I became intensely aware of something that rang from the silence, sunlight, solitude, and rock. I can only describe it as a sense of some enormous presence. It was everywhere, like the shimmer of the heat in the air. Maybe I was frightened at first but that passed, and it became something that was just there, like the light.”

The second is sort of a meta-self-awareness:

“Out of nowhere, from one step to the next, I was overcome by an astonishment at being me. It was like a second iteration of self-awareness, combined with an odd detachment, as if my mind had stepped back from my personality and wondered how it could possibly be that.”

I honestly cannot imagine an internal landscape that did not feature these sorts of experiences on a regular basis. The first is obviously something I would term a recognition of the numinous, which I have all the time and is an integral part of my spirituality. The second happens to me constantly – in fact, I remember the first time I had an experience like that, and it was during nap time in school, so I must have been very young. Coupled with frequent (ever more so these days, as I explore further reaches of certain altered states) bouts of depersonalization and derealization, it is one of the things that makes living in my brain so very…interesting. And yet from my observations, most people are much more like him than like me, only having such experiences fleetingly and infrequently, if at all. Then again, I suppose that’s one of the many reasons most people aren’t spirit-workers, shamans, or mystics. The more such things occur, the less you can just go about a regular mundane life.


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