Lenaia 2014 part 2

Lenaia 2014 part 2 (2)

Today I celebrated Dionysos with his upright image, wrapped in ivy from his shrine. Unlike the feelings from the previous day of stretching, and awakening, today was quite different of an experience. It was probably one of the more attention catching intense for me than any festivals that I have had in recent history for Dionysos.

lenaia

Formulaically, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the way I conducted the ritual. In fact, several of the hymns I read were the same as those from yesterday. Again I read those hymns for Zeus and Hera, and Hephaistos and Hestia who rule this Orphic month. And whereas I ended yesterday with the hymn to Semele, today I began with that hymn before proceeding to the hymns for Dionysos. The hymns I read for Dionysos were the following:

1) Hymn to Bacchus
2) Hymn to Liknitus
3) Hymn to Lysius Lenaeus
4) Hymn to Amphietus Bacchus

Lenaia 2014 part 2

Things got interesting though following the reading of these hymns, and the offering of portions of wine and incense at each hymn read for the gods. It was then that I picked up the small finger drum that was on the shrine. This was a tiny drum that I brought with me from Morocco on my second trip there. It was on this drum that I tapped my fingers at increasing speed, and as I was doing I found myself swaying to the beat and as the rhythm increased my blood sparking and firing. At one point I started to shake hard enough that I slammed the small drum down on the altar in finale, followed by another generous portion of wine offered spontaneously to Dionysos with a cry to Dionysos. It was then that I swallowed down some wine, greedily gulping it down as is not my custom when drinking wine. The cold liquid ran down my throat but did nothing to quench the fire burning inside of me. Such fire I have only experienced in prayer to Apollon regularly, and on only one occasion in prayer to Zeus.

After bringing a glass of wine from the altar to my boyfriend with a prayer to Dionysos, I then reclined in the couch swimming for many moments in a cloud of euphoria while I watched a recording of a comedy routine. This lasted for about a half hour following the ritual.

Lenaia 2014 part 1

Lenaia 2014 part 1

While I know that Lenaia is celebrated technically over several days I had decided to reduce it to a two day affair this year. This is better than other years where I have just celebrated it on one day. I am still in the processing of figuring my way around Lenaia. From vase paintings it seems that the celebrations of Lenaia included two important stages, for which reason I decided to do it over two days with a day devoted to each stage. One stage in the basket, and the other stage erect on a pole or column.

Lenaia image

Therefore the first stage honors the newly born Dionysos, son of Semele. He is represented as a mask within a basket. Offerings are presented to him in this fashion honoring him as the baby Dionysos. I didn’t have a basket small enough that I could find, so I ended up perching the small statuette had I made some years ago, wrapped in green cloth to represent the coming of spring, and the coming of new life of the vine.
On this first day I decided to forgo offering wine, and instead made an offering that is commonly offered to nymphs and other earthly daimons, milk mixed with honey. Tomorrow shall be the occasion to break out the wine. Rather than a rigorous festival, there was sweet anticipation in the air, and a sense of pushing forward. Even the babe within my womb stretched herself out during the prayers as if she too were affected by it. The sensation of new life springing forward in a rush.

For this ritual I said the following prayers. Aside from the prayers given to Hestia and Hephaistos (for the Orphic month, and also because Hestia is always honored first anyway), and those given to Zeus and Hera (who are honored at every ritual) I read the following hymns:

1) Hymn to Silenus, Satyrus and the priestesses of Bacchus
2) Hymn to Lysius Lenaeus
3) Hymn to Lyknitus Bacchus
4) Hymn to Ippa (who the hymn seems to identify with the mother of the gods)
5) Hymn to Semele.

It seemed that finishing with the hymn to Semele was the way to go, and was profoundly moving particularly in reading that last hymn. I then spent some time playing my wooden flute in honor of Dionysos before closing the ritual. Something playful and flirty, but also containing some longer drawn out notes to pay tribute to the tragedies that were composed for the winter performances during the Lenaea competitions.

On a side note, following the ritual even the ivy plant that I had temporarily set on the altar for the festivities was perkier when I had returned it to Dionysos’ shrine!

Giving Thanks

Today I had encountered a question that caught my attention. Someone wanted to know how to give offerings of gratitude to a goddess who had recently assisted them. While I had no specific recommendations for the deity in question, it did make me pause to consider what I normally do when I want to show specific gratitude for the overcoming of some particular difficulty…and there have been many instances of this too, or even a sudden blessing that appears in my life?

The simple solution which many folks seemed to jump on the quickest was to make a gift of something sacred to the deity, some image, icon, feather or other sacred associations. I think that this foremost comes to mind because it is the easiest to conceptualize. I want to thank the god or goddess and I want it to be something tangible that will stay there on the shrine for ever and ever and ever. And I do think that this is appropriate every now and then too. I do agree for really big things I would love to get some new icon, as it was often the custom among Hellenes to thank the gods for favor shown to them by dedicating images of the gods. The problem with this of course is that in the modern context we have limited space, whereas anciently this was done at temples, and often at great cost (therefore typically dedicated from the wealthy members). And while statuary is easier to come by now I think, we still run into the problems of just running out of room. When it comes to matters of practicality there is only so long that we can amass stuff that is permanently lasting before we are overwhelmed by it. If you think of it even temples had this problem! At the temple of Leto at Xanthus there was a votive pit near the temple where icons and offerings were buried to make room in the storage so to speak. Therefore unless it something *huge* that we are thanking for, more often than not permanent offerings are not the way to go, unless you have a very sparse set up for the deity in question. For instance I would probably be reluctant to get more statues to put on my shrine to Apollon for thanksgiving, but there are numerous gods that I either need images for or that could use another image in my mind for whatever reason, especially if it is one of the important gods in my household.

This is not to say that there aren’t long lasting gifts that don’t roughly fit into this category that could be appropriate. Replacing an offering plate with something new and special could be nice, or any other tool of worship such as a small pitcher for libations especially dedicated for that god or goddess in question. A small box to keep sacred items in, or a small box for keeping incense used only for that deity in. Vases, incense burners etc can all potentially fit in that category and are ultimately can be either permanent or replaceable as situations come down the road.

In any case, when it comes to practicality, we have to consider what we can give the gods that will be pleasing, that is not something we give them every day. For instance if you offer frankincense regularly to said god or goddess, while an extra portion would probably be a plus I would probably not limit it to this if I was feeling particularly very thankful for blessings and aid given. However that doesn’t mean that incense can’t be a lovely gift, especially if it is something that one goes through the extra cost to procure especially for that deity and kept set aside as a gift only for that deity. For instance, I have a vial of rose oil that I only use for anointing my statue of Aphrodite as it was a gift for her. Her statue gets weekly anointed and fumigated with incense (which I have a nice little selection for). Such items are regularly in use and do have to be replenished at which time of replenishing you can offer it once again in thanks for said momentous blessings that were given in the past.

Perhaps one of the simplest gifts though, and one which I think is highly appreciated by the gods, is a bouquet of flowers. These are nature’s own natural perfume, and often flowers have been used ceremonially for special offerings. Apollon was offered crocus flowers in the winter, and his altar during the Hyakinthia was laden with different blossoms. In the play Hippolytus we also find the young hero returning home from his hunt with flowers gathered for Artemis from a virgin field. In some ways I think that flowers are even a more special offering just because the length of time they last is outweighed by the effort. If you have the ability to gather wildflowers this cost would be considerable less, or if you have blossoming plants in your house or garden, but there will be times that these are not available. Here in Alaska with how short our growing season is the only way to really procure fresh flowers is at a local florist or market 8 months of the year. Therefore, spending around 20 dollars or more on a bouquet of flowers that will only last for about a week becomes symbolic of great affection and devotion, that the pleasure of the gift received becomes well worth it, even knowing that it can only be enjoyed a short time. Perhaps that makes it even the sweeter.

This does not negate how worth while offerings of special food items are. Honeyed cakes, sweets, etc require the cost and effort of making, and have a very short life, but can be of great source of pleasure to the gods. Cakes were often used as a bloodless offering appreciated by the gods. Therefore the importance of offering a small tray of cakes and sweet pastries to be shared with the deity in question can be very rewarding both as an offering and in one’s relationship with the deity, as sharing food with the gods tends to be. Especially if one takes the time in crafting said sweets with keeping in mind those things which the particular god or goddess enjoys (for instance making cakes shaped like deer or goats for Artemis and Apollon, or making candied rose petals for Aphrodite).

There are of course non-tangible offerings such as the playing of a music instrument for the god, the composition (or having someone else compose) a poem for said god/dess that acknowledges the favor given, singing, dancing, and other mediums that can bring a brief instant enjoyment to the god/dess you are honoring is all acceptable gifts for them and are very workable. In the end what is appropriate is what speaks to you and what you feel is a good way to give thanks. These are but some ideas.

Gods protect the children

Parenthood I think begins a whole other level of interaction with the gods, and sometimes with gods that you would have rarely thought of before. For instance when you desire to have children you may find yourself praying to gods such as Aphrodite, Leto, Hera and Zeus, Pan and so on to deities concerning fertility and generation. When you are expecting you will find that your prayers may drift to gods concerned with childbirth such as Hera, Artemis and Eilythia. And then after the child is born you prayers will be often directed to gods who are concerned with the welfare of the child and his or her development.

This later phase of prayerful address seems to be one that lasts the longest until said child makes way into adulthood. Typically I think it could be agreed that the deities perhaps the best to pray to for the welfare of the children is that of Leto (the mother), Artemis and Apollon. Artemis and Apollon are particularly connected to the welfare of the young and their successful survival of not only the seven days following their birth but into the succeeding years into adulthood and the stages that they pass through therein. This triad seems to be the most important in the successful rearing of children, or at least is a fundamental core deities which I think most could agree about.

This is not say that other deities would not be of value and interest in protecting your child. I think those gods which are predominantly worshiped in your household would take an interest in the welfare of your child and would be beneficial to pray to as the continuation of your oikos. For the case of my soon to be born baby daughter, Amber Artemisia Rose, this means that I particularly would be inclined to pray to Apollon, Artemis, Leto, Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite as the principle core deities of my oikos. That is not say that the other Olympians and other gods are not honored and that there are not other important gods, but these are the core gods that I feel interact the most in the welfare of my oikos, and who have shrines established for that reason.

That aside, there is also the personal gods of the child’s day of birth that are in my opinion take vested interest in children born during their sacred months. This is according to the Orphic calendar which assigns the zodiac months to the gods in sequence, therefore in a given zodiac month there is the god/dess and his/her Orphic pair. I take this a bit further to include not only the sun sign but also the rising sign which is rising directly opposite of the sun. For myself, as Scorpio, this means I was born under the zodiac month of Ares, with Aphrodite as his Orphic pair (Aphrodite of whom has shown a great deal of interest in my life over the years), with my rising sign (being Gemini) being ruled by Apollon with Artemis as his Orphic pair. For my eldest daughter I have often prayed to Athena who rules the sign Ares, and her Orphic pair Hermes. For Amber Artemisia I will be directly prayers particularly to Poseidon for the month of Pisces and his Orphic pair Demeter.

I think that this is especially valuable during birthdays when the gods who have protected the child over the year be honored by the parents with offerings for the next year of the child’s life. It goes without saying that a parent could of course go further by placing images of the gods near the beds of their child, or even give them charms to wear that represent the gods. My eldest daughter for years had a minishrine to Artemis in her bedroom when she was very small for instance.

“Name of Apollon” booklet nearing completion

I am happy to announce that my first booklet “The Name of Apollon” is nearing completion. I have some editing to do and hopefully get someone to proof read it. If all this happens in a fairly timely manner I anticipate the booklet to be available within a month or two. Other booklets that are on the way are “Divine Epithets of Apollon”, “Mother Leto”, and “Domestic Worship of Apollon” that should be ready over the next several months. There will be a list of booklets following these for Apollon including “His Father’s Will”, “The Shining Twins”, “The Serpent of Delphi”, among others that shall be released over the next couple of years.
My laptop malfunction this fall put me way behind on my writing unfortunately but I am pleased that I will be soon have the first booklet ready for release.

His Father’s Will: The Relationship of Zeus and Apollon

His Father’s Will is actually the title for a booklet I will be getting to in the future dedicated to exploring the relationship between Apollon and Zeus. They share such a fascinating relationship that I felt it is worthy of its own booklet alone. I believe the only other booklets I am planning such indepth relationships within is one exploring the relationships of Apollon and his twin Artemis, and one exploring the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos. However, it is more probable that I will write this one long before I write either of those just because in the end it is, in my opinion, a fascinating one.

Later mystic traditions alleged that Zeus, Apollon and Dionysos were in reality the same god operating on different levels of activity (and likewise aligned Hera, Artemis and Persephone). While I understand the reasoning behind it, and understand that the reasoning that although they were regarded as “the same”, they were still likely conceived and approached in a sense of separateness in terms of worship, it is still not something I am sure I agree with in the literal sense that they are “one” and the same. I do believe that these three gods DO share an important acting relationship, the two younger gods perhaps more intimately connected to the activity of Zeus than any other gods, aside from their sister Athena. That they serve as conduits of his activity might be one way to phrase it, or that their domains are inseparable from a particular aspect of Zeus’ activity. Certainly there does appear to be considerable overlap between Zeus and Apollon that reveals itself in the Orphic hymns, not only in their own individual hymns, but also in the hymn of Helios where both gods are likened with Helios and Zeus is hailed as a player of the lyre.

Hymns aside, there are, after all, many cultic interconnections that appear vital in the relationship of Zeus and Apollon that may add subtle layers of meaning to the worship of these gods. Chief among these is the issue of prophecy. Zeus himself is often considered the source of prophecy and himself had a number of oracles, and yet prophets, oracles and sybils seem to be sacred to Apollon is who holds the official office as oracular god….and given to him by Zeus. That his position is one of mandate held by Zeus’ will we can see in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes in which Apollon stated that he could not gift his divine office on his younger brother for it was the will of Zeus that he hold it (my paraphrase). Apollon is often intimately associated with the acting will of Zeus and his “sight” (in regards to all seeing and knowing of the future…which is perhaps the stem of their joint association with the sun who is the all-seeing eye of the heavens). As such he is frequently depicted in terms of acting with no further motivation because he was assigned to such by his father, as in the case of Apollon’s actions in favor of Ilium in the Trojan War, acting as his father’s authority in giving contest to the Achaeans and purposefully slowing their victory. Even the aegis which Apollon wields at the fore of the Trojan army is one that Zeus presents to him to so carry. Certainly Apollon is mythically attributed with many key points in the establishment of Olympia, one of the grandest seats of Zeus, and its games, and the laws governing those games (which Apollon protects).

Apollon’s place of authority in the imager of the Lapiths against the Centaurs on the western pediment of Zeus’ great temple in Olympia is perhaps telling of something, as the myth itself deals with conflict in regards to violation of the guest-host relationship. A not unfamiliar conflict root as we see too with the Trojan War. Zeus himself protects such relationships and was often called upon as witness for such transgressions, and to act as judge and executioner. Apollon’s association at Olympia particularly as protector of sacred laws, and other cultic examples in which Apollon seems to act particularly in cases of law violation (and perhaps one of many reasons of which both Zeus and Apollon were honored in the assembly area of Athens) may be a particular aspect of their relationship. One in which Apollon acts with Zeus in terms of steering/shepherding, guidance, law, truth and other such functions that deal with the ordering of civilization and maintenance of it and the cosmos. This may also have some bearing on many shared symbols such as goats (associated so with plentitude, and good guidance…as they were used by the Dorians to shepherd sheep, among other things), wolves (of quite fearsome dispositions in their consuming appetites in attributes set on them in myth, but also creatures of twilight where they are not clearly discernible), serpents (who enter into hidden areas and given the appearance of immortality with the shedding of their skin) and so on.

Even the griffin, the hound of Zeus, is linked with Apollon, that even as it is obedient and loyal to Zeus as its master, it serves too as mount for Apollon and is in a sense harnessed by Apollon (not only in terms of as mount, but in a more controlling way too as depicted in a statue of Apollon in which the god holds a griffin helpless by its legs. In a sense if the griffin is the hound of Zeus, Apollon is here acting as the houndmaster for Zeus, which is certainly an appropriate way to look at their relationship in my opinion. For Apollon always seems to be non too far from the seat of is father, and is likewise attributed with authority in regards to association with Fates and Graces, as well as being the only other god aside from Zeus addressed also as king. In this sense of authority we can see how the relationship mentioned at the opening can make sense on a symbolic level, as Zeus proceeds as the highest king over all the cosmos and things, and Apollon as a king beneath Zeus, ordering things among the living to the will of Zeus. Thus on one of very few times that Apollon rebelled in anger against Zeus, we find him acting by Zeus’ will in punishment serving as a slave shepherd, his functions mirroring his divine ones, bringing prosperity, order and protection. And perhaps as a reminder that Apollon too on another level that for all Apollon’s power and necessity, he is but an extension of Zeus’ might even as a slave is but an extension of the desires of a king.

The fact that Apollon has ever openly rebelled against Zeus is perhaps the most telling of how deep their relationship is because it is treated with a note of wonder, and it is clear that Zeus responds to it as the deepest of betrayal (not unlike his sense of betrayal in an instance when Athena sided against him in the Iliad with the council of Hera). So grievous was Apollon’s action that he was nearly thrown into Tartaros for it. It is all of this that illuminates the depth of his relationship with his father the best that so profound is their connection that violation was the highest of insult. Such commitment though is likewise illustrated by one way of looking at it through the care and burial of the son’s of Zeus for his father. He was entrusted with the burial of Zagreus, and in the Iliad with the preparations of Sarpedon following death. Illuminating a connection perhaps between the Chthonic Zeus, and Apollon as guardian of the cemeteries and the laws pertaining to the dead in such respect, as well as necessary purifications etc.

In some context it can be seen that if Zeus is the judge, then Apollon is the lawyer informing (and perhaps in some cases swaying) the judge, as we see mythically with Apollon arguing for the preservation of the human race when Zeus became particularly vexed with us. If Zeus is the father, then Apollon is as the eldest brother, keeping an eye on things, dispensing reprimands and reminders and carrying out the authority of the father when he is not immediately present. If it is seen that Zeus is embodied in all things of the earth, heavens and cosmos, then it is understandable that Apollon is the shepherd of all that which dwells upon the earth and in the heavens. And so on.

There is of course much more to consider and speak of….and all in good time. There is still considerable more research and thought that will be done before I begin writing on that booklet.

Of course there also ought to be considered Apollon as an earlier deity and his role associated with the rearing of Zeus as presented in Arkadia (and echoed in Kyrene where they honored that Zeus). But I have discussed this before.

Giving Worship to Leto

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As this is something that has come into practice more and more in my life, established more so during the last few months when I did not have access to a working computer, I thought it was about time that I should give a brief summary of my worship practices for Leto. I confess that some of what may have triggered, or perhaps encourages is a better word, to further explore into my worship of her, was becoming pregnant again after so long after the birth of my first child 13 years ago. Leto seems to be an important goddess to particularly revere by mothers, just as important as Hera who provides legitimate heirs, Eilytheia who midwives the new birth, and Artemis and Apollon who succor and protect the new babes. Leto is a goddess, great among mothers, the most blessed of mothers for bringing forth twin births (something her son Apollon also seemed to have encouraged in his time as a mortal shepherd, perhaps an influence from being the son of Leto who herself brought forth twins as he himself is numbered one among those twins).

Leto herself is a complicated goddess. Even as her son was associated with tombs in many places, in Asia Minor she seemed to have associations with the underworld herself, and her portrayals lend to her a certain mystique as a heavily veiled goddess, the “lady”, one who may have been as dark as a void, as a starless night, even as her sister Asteria was a bright starry one. Leto sometimes seems as the dark womb that births forth light which may have been a recognized part of her nature anciently and gave rise to her associations with the underworld, and her mythic association with frogs who descend into the gloomy depths of ponds and into the underworld. As such I took much consideration into crafting her image.

For home worship images of Leto are not particularly forth coming on the market, and so I satisfied myself with making a bust of the goddess which I draped with a lavender veil which, aside from indigo blue, I have associated with the twilight sky. The heavens giving birth to light of the morning. I have painted her before wearing a gray veil before too. Any color that seems to spark the imagination as a color of darkness bringing forth light seems to me to be quite appropriate for Leto. For those who are not inclined to make their own image of Leto, a statue or bust of a woman wrapped in a veil would be an adequate substitute…conveying the mystique and obscurity of Leto’s nature. Included on or near the image can be symbols associated with the goddess.

When I made my bust I chose tigers eye stones for her eyes to convey her protective nature, just as I chose garnets for her crown. The royal jade is set within her crown and upon her shoulders in imitation of clasps. Her crown I have adorned with frogs which I consider perhaps one of her foremost important symbols from myth. Other appropriate symbols would be wolves foremost, as those who guided her, as to a slightly lesser extant storks and other birds and beasts associated with the arrival of offspring. One bird, however, that is very much connected to her which would be ideal to adorn her image or altar with feathers from or imagery of, is the quail. This would be highly appropriate and ideal to include for her shrine (something of which I still need to add to my own!) Two in fact, as she is called the mother of the quails, and in this manner her twin offspring are also likened to quails for which it would be appropriate and ideal to include such representations.

When it comes to offerings, for libation I find cool clean water to be ideal. Best if you can get it from a natural fountain or stream, but as long as it is cool and clean it would probably be good. To keep the water cool during the ritual consider containing it in a dark ceramic pitcher if you have one available. This preference in my own worship is based from the myth of the Lycian frogs in which Leto, desiring access to the cool waters from which to partake, was driven away by the villagers. In my mind such an offering symbolically demonstrates that we are giving of such to her, that the sacred waters always overflow into her cup. For incense it is good to stick with common frankincense, but I have found blends of Night Queen to be quite pleasing, as well as any sweet clean scents like sandalwood, jasmine or lavender, or even the more pungent scents of pine and cedar. With these things I proceed with ritual in the typical Hellenic manner.

My worship of Leto seems to take form in terms of offerings and address to the goddess in a manner which is modest and simple, which seems appropriate for the character of the goddess herself who never seems to have asked for much from her worshipers. She has few temples in the ancient world in fact which were specifically built for her. One in Delos that I know of, and the great Letoon in Asia Minor near the river Xanthus. Otherwise her worship seems to have been instituted in the local cults of her children and her imagery adjoining theirs. As there are also no known surviving festivals or feast days attributed to the goddess, it is therefore it is logical that most common practice be to honor her with her children in one’s household worship (as I have her shrine in place with those of Artemis and Apollon and give to her offerings when I address offerings to them daily). In fact for those who may not have noticed, with the exception of lavender and Night Queen, most of the incenses I give her are ones I commonly give her children already, as they seem equally pleasing to her as to them. One can of course begin new festivals, and I have been considering seriously what date to set the my modern spring festival Feast of Frogs to honor her as a mother goddess and goddess of children and the portal of life and death through which all things cyclically pass even as frogs pass to and fro from the cold dark depths.