Here it is, the last cemetery visit for Hermes. (I will be doing something different to honor Him for the remaining four months of the year.) For this, I travelled slightly outside of Eugene proper, to an unincorporated area between our city and the next. I was surprised to find a quite old (for these parts) cemetery in this place, since it is otherwise an industrial area between the highway and a bunch of warehouses. I doubt the cemetery gets many visitors (two people were leaving as I arrived, but otherwise I had it to myself). Yet it has some fairly recognizable local names. It is called Laurel Grove – according to The Internet, it is named after madrona trees (which are one of the many types of trees casually called “laurel” which aren’t actually Laurel nobilis), but I only saw a very few madronas on the periphery. Maybe like so many Oak Streets and Elm Streets, the trees that gave it its name were actually cleared for it.
I mentioned awhile back that I had stopped making bone jewelry, primarily because I no longer felt comfortable with the sources of beads. Either they are semi-precious stones with dubious mining origins, or they are made of synthetic, non-biodegradable materials and usually come from China (here’s another good article from Lupa about the ecological problems with art supplies). The environmental – and human – cost was just too much to justify anymore.
However, I still had some beading supplies left over, and it was certainly better to put them to use than to get rid of them. So I recently went through these, and my remaining bones, and made what will likely be the last pieces of The Bone Forest Collection.
Visit my shop Goblinesquerie for these and other jewelry, plus incense, art, and other good stuff!
So part of our Filled with Frenzy ritual at Many Gods West was a series of devotional prayers before the shrine. I decided to do the Orphic Hymn #30 for Dionysos, in ancient Greek (which I had fortunately already memorized nine years ago for a Pantheacon ritual and still had knocking around in my brain). But then I got a strong feeling it should be sung, not simply recited. We know that the ancient hymns were sung originally, although we don’t really know how they sounded, if there were set melodies, etc. I basically just played with this until it found its own rhythm and notes – not quite a static melody, and not quite formless either, it seemed to fit.
Someone asked if I would be recording this. We did not make any recordings of the ritual (that’s against our entire approach) but I decided it might be interesting to others to hear what this sounds like, so I recorded myself singing it. Warning: the quality is that of my laptop’s built-in microphone, so not great. Also, I make no pretenses at perfect ancient Greek pronunciation, or having a good voice. This was an offering to my god, not a performance. It had more power during the ritual itself, obviously, but this might still be useful as a record and perhaps inspire others to do the same.
Announcing the release of my latest book! Komos: Celebrating Festivals in Contemporary Hellenic Polytheism is now available. You can buy it on Amazon or directly from Createspace (as well as ordering it from your local bookstore). I am so excited to offer this to the community, as I know that a lot of people have difficulty figuring out the festivals, especially in the context of a solitary practice, and this should really help get the ball rolling. I have been doing this for nearly 20 years now and have accumulated a lot of experience through trial and error. Now I’m able to share it with all of you.
Here is the blurb from the back cover:
Festivals were one of the most important aspects of ancient Greek religion, and yet celebrating them – whether adaptations of historical rites or entirely new ones – can be difficult for contemporary Hellenic polytheists. We struggle to maintain an authentic connection to tradition while creating relevant practices which reflect our own relationships to the gods and spirits, as well as to the lands where we live now. Many of us are doing this alone or with only a few other people, unable to achieve the lavish processions, competitions or revels of times past. And yet our desire to honor the gods, explore themes such as purification, fertility and renewal, and mark the sacred progression of the year, remains as strong as ever.
Komos first explains the nature of ancient Greek festivals and the reasons they were observed, before moving forward to offer ways in which the same ideas and motivations can be expressed through modern celebrations. Special attention is given to crafting a localized and individualized practice that both fulfills religious obligations and results in personal enjoyment and spiritual connection. The lunar calendar is explained, along with other approaches to timing and selecting dates. All the significant elements of Hellenic festivals are discussed in detail with suggestions for how each can be included today. To educate and inspire the reader in the process of creating a complete festival calendar, many ancient examples are referenced, along with a few compatible modern folk festivals, and accounts of some of the author’s own experiences. Finally, advice is given for navigating issues such as budgetary restrictions, multi-tradition households, and what to do when things go wrong.
If you have been wanting to add festivals to your spiritual practice but weren’t sure where to begin, or if you just need some ideas to supplement your existing celebrations, this book can help. May you find within these pages the spark that lights your torches for many festivals to come.
Please help spread the word about this book if you are part of any Hellenic-type groups, blogs, etc. Thank you so much! Oh, and of course, feel free to ask any questions you might have about this book here, and I will do my best to answer.
Finally starting to get my head back together after the weekend and our Filled with Frenzy ritual at Many Gods West. I am not going to give a detailed account for many reasons – I feel like it was a personal experience for many people that maybe shouldn’t be shared too much, I was in enough of an altered headspace that I’m not sure I’m a good candidate to recap anyway, and I just prefer to let these things be ephemeral. But I will just say that it went fantastically from my perspective, I feel like we accomplished what we set out to do: honor the god, bring people into His circle for an hour or two, spread some entheos around, etc. It has been a long time since I’ve had the chance to go fully mainad (well, at least as fully as one can in a hotel meeting room) with a group of others all worshipping Dionysos, and that was really amazing for me. We had an incredible group of devotees for this who all came through stunningly, and I am so proud to have been a part of it. Also, the attendees really threw themselves into the spirit with wild abandon, and that was awesome.
If you came to the ritual and want a copy of the music that was played during the ecstatic portion (I have heard some requests for this), please send your mailing info to me at doorunderground at gmail dot com and I will burn you a CD. Also, if you were there and helped clean up afterwards, thank you so much! I was so impressed by how much people were willing to help out. The floor that had been littered with chunks of bread, dried figs, crushed grapes, empty wine cups and discarded masks was cleared in a matter of minutes!
I don’t think any of us took any photos at all beforehand – of the ritual space or our costumes – because we were too busy setting up and preparing mentally, and that’s how it should be. But I took this one of myself about an hour afterwards, while still feeling the effects of the ritual. I’d taken off some of my outfit and my hair is a wild frizzy mess and my facepaint has sweated off a bit, but it actually seems like the best way to convey some of what it all felt like, so I’m sharing it here. Io euoi! Hail Dionysos!