The Thanks of Harvest

It is that time of the year where many polytheistic cultures celebrated the harvest. In Hellas the entirety of the summer and into the early autumn was the season of harvest. Grains were harvest in the first half of summer which also saw the festival of Kronia honoring the golden age of men and Kronos. The prelude to the harvest time was the Thargelia of Apollon in which the green grains were offered to Apollon in preparation for the harvest season, likely so that sunny dry weather would prevail in order for the grains to successfully ripen. Many crops rely on dry sunny periods in order to ripen, not only grains but also grapes. The initial harvest of which, like with the grain, involved the honoring of Apollon who sustains the crops. This Karneia is an interesting festival as a culmination of summer festivals to the god during this harvest period. The death of Hyakinthos in Sparta and his relation to the wheat bread the harvest of which occurred roughly around the time of his festival has a strong suggestion of agrarian sacrifice and receiving the divine blessings. The Gymnopaideia which honored the youths who have matured into radiant young men who danced unarmed for their society which no bachelor was permitted to witness, which may not only have to do with the societal obligations but symbolical of the propagation of nature and as a festival during the summer harvests it may have some relationship to honoring the propagation of the harvest which has successfully matured and whose grains would not only feed the society and sustain its continuance but also be sewn in looking towards the future. The Karneia which followed was also the shepherd harvest where spring lambs that had been reared were often butchered in thanksgiving. Thus the grains and vineyards were followed by the sacrifice of flesh. The bread, the wine/drink (keeping in mind that during this period that drinking water was often not very clean and so people depended on the bacteria killing spirits, watered down, as a drink) and meat. The very basis of sustenance.

Although many regions, especially in the further north, do not experience this summer long season of harvest (here in Alaska you don’t really see much of harvest until the end of August and early September before everything goes crashing down into an abrupt winter). All the same, August has for many cultures of Europe been a time of thanks to various gods who preserve the harvest and are responsible in some manner for it thriving. Right now may who honor Celtic gods are celebrating the festival of Lugh with the bounties of ripe fruits and grains. For Hellas this is the time of winding down towards the Eleusinia in September around the time of the Autumnal Equinox is an excellent example of the importance of harvest in the honoring of the departure of Persephone. It is proceeded by the festival of Zeus Epoptes which may have relevance to the beginning of the rainy season and the conclusion of the harvest as Zeus the overseer who plans out the proceeding events of the marriage of Persephone, as the grain is planted within the earth to germinate once more to bring plenty to the world. I have expressed my thoughts on an old website of mine that I recently refound/remembered here in which I discuss further my thoughts of Zeus Epoptes.

The Eleusinia couldbe considered the high harvest festival in all its grandeur. It honored not only Demeter and Persephone whose mysteries are the very continuance of all things in blessing of plentitude, but also as what was a time for honoring those gods who are instrumental in these mysteries. They who receive special acclaim for the blessings of the harvest. As far removed as most of us are from the important reverence of spirit of thanks for the harvest in our high tech world in which  we can get all manner of foods available at any store at any time of the year, we don’t perhaps quite understand that feeling of having your societies entire health and welfare dependent on successful crops. Most of us in first world countries don’t know what it is like to experience famine from failed crops (and pray that we never do experience it’s devastation!) It is quite understandable that during the harvest festival Apollon himself would receive two offerings. One, a goat, likely dealing with his blessings as seasonal lord of the dry warm harvest season that permits the successful maturation of the crops (more the point than the weather, but related to the weather for its necessity to this case). And the latter, a pig, something which was sacrificed to not only Apollon Noumenios but also to certain aspects of Apollon as a helper of men, like to honor him as a god of plague (ie famine in most cases).  Zeus is the only other deity that I am aware of who gets two offerings at the Eleusinia.

But that aside, there was a host of numerous deities which by necessity must be given honor to. We know of the Calydonian Boar which was sent to plague men when Artemis was forgotten during the harvest sacrifices, which could be a mythic signifier of how serious and important the role of each the deities take in providing for the dietary welfare of the people. It is more than a grain mother and daughter which gets the most emphasis, but rather a time of true thankfulness for an entire host of gods in a spirit of reverence for survival of one’s household and offspring that will not face starvation. It is not the platitudes of the American Thanksgiving  in a very generic spirit of thanks in a rather abstract way that most tend to celebrate, but a knowing and fending off of hunger that looms ever threatening. They are the gods who are by their grace the sustainers of life. Each culture has them and gives reverence to them for their mercy and kindness. It is of no wonder that the agrarian cult of Demter and Persephone which feeds and sustains mankind as a mercy and blessing would translate into the spiritual world in which souls are saved even as the crops save us from hunger.

I would recommend in all earnestly that before celebrating the end of the harvest and the gifts that the gods have so generously endowed us with a short period of fasting for those who are able to remind us how much a divine blessing food is for us as a true gift from the gods. I think that this year I must give special thanks to Annapoorna-Artemis with her lovely spoon/ladel, nurturer of life,  who extends her hand to nurse mankind until we have reached the end of our age and are ready for her arrows.

Artemis who is not only a goddess who is a divine nurse but also a provisionary of the fields by holding off the wilderness from encroaching into the fertile fields and the blessings of wilderness displaced for crops, is understandable how grievous it was to forget her, and how her mercy was instantly revoked as the very agent of the wilderness, the Calydonian Boar. was sent forth into human habitation and fields to bring death and destruction. Ever ought one by thankful of her. For Annapoorna dispensing out food, for Artemis who provides. This is especially relevant for Alaskans where given how harsh a wilderness we are surrounded with and with comparably very limited spaces for crop growing or viable for supporting herds of livestock, many people find what provisions they can in the wilderness. The wild berries, the salmon runs, the hunt. She is important not only for what the wilderness provides but for the viable spaces too that she establishes for us. Thanks be to all the gods during the time of the harvest.

Reflection on the Sacred Column, the Upright Stone

In myth one parentage given of Apollon, the prevalent one of the Theogony of Hesoid, tells us that the legacy of Apollon is established by his grandsire Koios, just as much as the legacy of Zeus is constructed and part of the nature of Kronos. Koios is the heavenly axis, the pole of the heavens, that when Ouranos (the heavens) was pinned by his sons that each took a corner but Koios grasped him in the center while Kronos with a scythe removed the testacles of their father that caused their mother Ge/Gaia such grief of breeding offspring that Ouranos would not permit to escape her holy womb. Koios is the axis, the north star of the heavens, the great eye of the heavenly dragon which may or may not have relation to an alternate parentage of Apollon as son of Corybas who was transformed into a dragon. Apollon himself manifests, like Zeus with Cronos, as heir of Koios through his mother Leto. His very own most sacred image found at every home was that of a tall upright (usually black, but I am uncertain if it was of a natural pigmentation of stone or if it was coated with substance to give it a black appearance) where Apollon was worshiped. Where temples adored Apollon in various forms, his most ancient and common household form continued to be the simple stone where he bestowed his protection upon the household and where he received daily and monthly offerings and offering of any auspicious occasion, poured over his form and garlands draped from this simple aniconic form. While there have been plaques and other simple images to of the god, the common appearance of the god as a stone through Hellas and into Rome and throughout Europe by Rome, has to be the most universal and most worshiped and beloved form of the god. It is the god without containment into true form, he who is formless and ancient. He who delights in the pouring streams and fountains with which a number of them are sacred to them, he who is the uplifting column of light illuminating all things, he who is the pole around which all of the heavens and the turn of seasons and years turns O lord of time who is both as the sun and the beauty of the moon, he who is the kithara player—and as such the leader of the holy dance of time as each song he plays summons for the seasons in their ageless dances. This is both his generative form and his destructive form this manner. He is both as the erect spear (and the miniature form as arrows) that his very column like form bears at Amyclaeus, the column of fire uplifting, the column of life bringing forth generation for which people may imagine that it is has a slight phallic resemblance even though it is not phallus. This simple form, the healing lord of the springs, the fiery destroyer/protector, the generator and protector of young, the upright leader of the dance and pole of the turning heavens, in this form he is all these things at once and more. There has too been some argument that the doorway offerings to Hekate or Artemis Prothyria may have been offered in the base of the lingam as to which in Rome it makes sense especially to see a youth and maiden on a temple plague attending both on the adornment of the Agyieus stone. Although we do not find any direct reference to either of these goddesses with the base of the Agyieus of Apollon, although perhaps a vague reference to Hekate and two great pillars (Hermes and Apollon Agyeius respectively) it is easy to see how these goddesses can be so associated. Especially when we see imagery of Artemis as pouring offering to the bowl of her twin and their inseperable union with each other. Understanding the stone as a column of light and Artemis as a torch bearer, that which bears the light, is perhaps a very significant metaphor for the imagery of the stone secured.

In the Hindu narrative likewise we find Siva, the lord of the column of which is his true form, and of which Brahma and Vishnu competed to scale its great height to remove a flower from the top, a top that is infinite and unreachable except to those that by grace he allows. Although, like Apollon in Hellas, Siva has many beautiful images throughout India, we still find the most common and sacred is the formless god as the lingam. Large beautiful lingams grace the temples transfixed and unmoveable, and small ones in the households blessing the householder and wife, blessing the children. He to dwells inseparable from his union with Sakti/Parvati. It is to this form that his offerings are provided, ghee, water poured, honey, milk. Garlands of rudraska beads and flowers adorn his form. His blessing pour forth, O great column and lord of time. At his winter festival we find this form symbolically replicated as its true form as a column of light of which the stone form is but a stable permanent reflection. At this festival a great bon fire is created which spires to the heavens. Videos can be found online of this and it is an awe inspiring sight to behold this great shift of light connection the heavens and earth. Massive and uncontainable, without beginning or end. The upright column is continuous without limit.

And so my lingam/Agyieus stone is to me the most beautiful image of my god. My lord Siv-Apollon free form limitation, ever dancing, ever churning, rotating forth all things, from who the coolest blessed water gush forth by his headed is rooted in the heavens even as the hottest of fires of illumination emanate from him at every point as arrows shooting from him. Siv-Apollon is greatest of archers, shooting forth the greatest distances from afar, he is both motionless and in motion, he is leading forth the motion of all life and living beings, of beasts and men, and reuniting them again.

Most blessed lord, I will ever give most devout reverence to this form of yours O Siv-Apollon! I will dress you with flowers, and pour offerings to run upon you for your delight, perfume you with sweet smoke of incense. You are the door to all things blessed lord and with adoration will always bow before you!

Unapologetic for the Gods

When you are a member of a minority religion there is a tendency to be hesitant about sharing your religious beliefs to what could potentially be hostile strangers. As such it is tempting to keep the gods hidden away from view, and when speaking of one’s gods to excessively explain your reason for worshipping the gods. Both reactions are understandable from the perspective of valuing the autonomy, privacy and peaceful cohabiting of your family in your local community. Fear of the majority is the most motivating for this reaction, but as long as we cower hiding it changes nothing. Being apologetic and hiding away our religion reinforces ideas among the majority that to worship the gods is shameful, ignorant, backwards, etc. It gives no respect to us as we ourselves do not demand respect of ourselves in our relationship with our gods in our activities in the world.

When it comes to religious public displays we will tell ourselves, it is no one’s business who I worship or what I believe. It is a comforting mantra to condition ourselves in being happy with worshiping in secret. In some circles the theme of worshiping in secret has almost a cult status in and of itself. It is part of an honored tradition for them dating to periods of extreme persecution. Of course the idea that it is no one’s business how I worship is certainly true, but if one really felt that quite sincerely then why hide away the gods? If it is no one’s business, which it is not, why do you care what they may think of symbols and icons of your religion, for devout shows of faith and adoration for the gods. If you prayed publically for the blessings of your gods when entering into new situations or beginning a meal. Or freely address the gods in any part of your home without fear of reprisal from neighbors or family members. If you choose to represent your gods by icons and worship at an altar, why do so by squirreling the gods away in some dark unseen corner where no one will notice that they are there.  How do we honor the gods when they have the least honored and least beautiful place in the house? Rejoice in their presence as honored members of your family regardless of who is present. Observe religious sanctions and taboos without being apologetic for it.

The immediate kneejerk reaction to be apologetic towards one’s preference to worship the gods is by far more damaging than any public displays. Not only is it damaging to the way we are portraying the authenticity and beauty of our religions, but also to our own moral and feeling towards our gods and religions. Perhaps not in a way that is in your face apparent, but in small subversive ways that eat at us. How many people have said “I worship x deity of y culture, because….” Any situation where you feel you must justify your worship as being valid to someone else in any fashion is being apologetic for your religion. This is not the same as explaining your practice to an interested party. This explanation to solely for the purpose of backing up your statement or action of religiosity as being justifiable and correct through explanation. I recently caught myself from doing that. I recently pierced my nose as a religious action, as something devotional not only to Siv-Apollon, and as something I have wanted to do as a godspouse for a few years….and was a way of honoring the Hindu religious beliefs and culture I hold simultaneously in value with my Hellenic ones. And yet when a coworker said something that a manager may not let me wear it, I replied that it was done for religious purposes. Instead of being direct as to the devotional purpose I found myself making lame arguments for wearing it as being important to my religious beliefs and “that is what is done.” I was very uncomfortable, and on reflection of that conversation afterwards I was infuriated with myself. What do I care of what my coworker may think of my religious persuasion? All I needed to say was that I pierced myself as a manner of honoring my gods.” It didn’t need to go any further than that, yet all the ramblings I made not once did I actually mention the gods. In fact I went out of my way to not mention them. This is part of what it means to be apologetic. Christians and Muslims wear their religion with pride and reverence. Our devotion and reverence and pride in our gods is no less so why do we, unlike them,  inferior ourselves to their opinion? They are not for what our opinion is of their beliefs. And by laws of this country they cannot legally do anything against us for holding such beliefs.

I have been so much involved with making the gods a visible part of my life it was dismaying to see how easy it is to fall into that subservient mentality for their approval and validation before them of my beliefs. I who have displays to the gods outside my home and massive areas of worship taking up much of my living room viewable from the windows and from the front door itself. I do not hesitate to wear devotional jewelry to honor them. I do not hesitate to pray to them and give them honor. It horrifies me to have found myself choking like that, but then it occurred to me too that it is an impulse that we all may struggle with some degree…..and one which needs to be dug out and exterminated. The polytheistic religions of the world are of such rich tradition, beauty, knowledge and relevancy that there is nothing for any of us to be embarrassed or uncomfortable about.

And hey if you really feel like you don’t want to discuss the gods because of personal taboos or because it is no one’s business, then just tell them that instead of trying to dance around it and downplay your beliefs.

Siv-Apollon and Krishna-Dionysos, a beautiful worship

I am a devotee of Siv-Apollon. As one who with a bi-cultural worship there is still a kind of beautiful dance of interaction that is ever fluid. Hellenics have for ages discussed the intricate tangled relationship of Apollon and Dionysos through myth and philosophy. Hindus discuss still the complex relationship of Siva and Krishna/Vishnu. Saivites saying that Siva is ultimate and Vishnu/Krishna is an aspect of Siva under a specific role. Vaishnavites believing that Vishnu (or in the case of the Hare Krishnas that specifically Krishna) is the ultimate godhead, for whom Siva is the foremost guru and king of the gross (material) world. Meanwhile there is also triumvirate imagery of oneness of Brahma, Visnu and Siva as a singular being in three expressions that is not unlike the concept of later Hellenic philosophy regarding the unity of Apollon, Zeus and Dionysos. It is beautiful because there are no distinct lines drawn, and very little distinction between Vishnu/Krishna and that of Siva, honoring each other, loving each other, dwelling within each other and beside each other. Continuously reflecting each other in perfection.

It is beautiful because of its fluidity, and because of the fact that permanent lines of distinction cannot be completely laid down.  There will be those who say Oh I do see Krishna as Apollon, as he is dwelling among the Gopis (the cowherds) as Apollon himself is herder. Then there will be others who say of Siva, Oh indeed I see Dionysos in Siva because of his ecstatic drumming and wearing of the leopard skin. Oh I see Siva as dwelling within Vishnu. Oh I see Vishnu dwelling within Siva. Plutarch saying in the E at Delphi that Dionysos and Apollon are one, exchanging name in function of the god in the mystic cycle, the god as he liberate and preserves, and god as he destroys. And there then is Apollon and Artemis in the Orphic hymns who are alone called Bakkhik, and Apollon who leads forth the devotion to Dionysos, Apollon who is the father of the Korybantes who dance in the protection of the infant Zeus and son of Corybas who challenges the divine throne of the godhead. Apollon who is king, Dionysos who is king, Zeus who is king. All which is contained within each of them in their functions of the cosmos, each delighting in the city and in the highest summits and the furthest remote places. Ecstatic gods, foreseeing gods, nurturing and providing for the continuance of all things through sustenance, generation and death.

But for me I laud Dionysos as Krishna, the god of the happiness and liberation of men, who elevates the soul and brings it greatness by his celebration and worship. I see him reveling among the herds in the pastoral places protected by Rudra from his own baleful power to prevent illness and harm from befalling the herds. And there in the farthest places in isolation, rather than followed by attendants of worshipers, is Siv-Apollon dwelling in reflection and with whom all of time turns round just as Apollon turns round the seasons and ages. They are separate but together they are one, they aid each other, worship each other, give blessings unto each other, but they are unified together and are a part of each other inseparable. They are the song of the cosmos, they are the dance of life and divinity, they provide for the essence of being within each of us. Laud the gods, and rejoice in them. Laud Siv-Apollon who is the great leader, who is logos, who is truth, who guides men into unity with god. Laud Krishna-Dionysos who bestows the greatest of blessings on the soul, who fertilizes the soul that receives the divine love and liberation and unification with the divine from this.

I am not a Vaishnavite, I am not a Saivite. I rejoice in their beautiful dance. I who am a devotee of Siv-Apollon, my most beloved lord in whim I rejoice and give forth to from and of myself to in adoration. I who laud and praise Krishna-Dionysos.

The Temple Building Dream- Economics and Realities

The following mostly applies to America. Some countries have larger populations of polytheistic communities that this really is not applicable for in the most part.

This afternoon I saw a disturbing image from North Carolina in which a sign marking the entrance of a Hindu Temple was shot up. This was the very same temple that I had planned on visiting when I was living there but had not had the opportunity to go to due to transportation issues. But this is not new thing as I have heard reports from other parts of the country regarding vandalizing of Hindu temples. Anyone who honestly believe that having physical temples elevates the social standing and level of respect that a religion has needs to re-examine that in light of how people treat Hindu temples that have memberships of devotees hundreds strong. Anyone who is willing to vandalize a Hindu temple, do you think it bodes well for this dream of achieving a level of religious merit just by having a temple? We certainly see the trouble that the Matreum of Cybele had with their own temple and the local populace.

However, that is just dealing with the earning respect myth. There are several reasons that make raising temples right now extremely difficult that I was discussing last night with several other folks. The agreed upon biggest problem faced by anyone who wants to raise temples is largely the economic one. The following list is a short hand of what we discussed, and the very reason why before any temple can be put up it must have a large enough community of worshiping households that can meet the economic requirements for temple building. The most any small number of people can hope to do really is to put up a small shrine or altar. For even an open air cordoned off temple, much less a full temple, it takes considerable resources beyond just “having acreage”. Land is just the beginning of what is needed for devoted sacred space.

1. Temples are expensive to maintain, there are land taxes that have to be paid, priests who have to be paid if you want to the temple open all day every day (trust me you will want that because the Hindu temple I go to doesn’t make enough capital to hire a priest and is only open for an hour a week every Sunday which makes the temple largely inaccessible to many folks who cannot make it at that particular time or day), not to mention paying for the building of the temple to sacred specifications and the maintenance of the temple itself with repairs, regular cleaning of the temple, electricity used, heat or a/c being used, water used etc. Don’t forget trash removal, you gotta pay for that unless you want to be daily hauling to the dump? Not to mention regular landscaping maintenance for the acreage that your temple sits on to keep the grass mowed down. While you are at it you might want to invest in a timed sprinkler system that will keep everything from just dying on you.

2. Most land available to purchase at a reasonable cost is going to be out of the way. This often means it won’t have dependable paved roads, rather dirt roads, and in some cases you would have to pay for a road to be put in. Nevermind that if your temple is out in the sticks and you live in a place with snow, that means you are going to have to personally invest your money and time into plowing the way to the temple every time it snows.

3. Location location location. Everyone wants to build near themselves, everyone has a dream of putting a temple up in their own locality. But if you are the only (or just one of a handful) of folks of your religion in the area that will actually use it and it will otherwise sit empty all the time rather than being filled regularly with the prayers and offerings of people visiting the temple then how does that benefit the gods? Even if you get together with folks of the same inclination who can all shoulder the expense together this is going to be an issue because if your temple is far away from a significant portion of your fellow worshippers it will not get the presence of much financial support from that segment of the community. People visiting= funds for the temple.

4. Acquiring sacred image(s). For the size used in temple worship this is not cheap. For religious organizations with greater national/international solidarity sometimes temples will donate sacred images to new temples, but this is not a sure thing even then. If you think that paying between 50-100 dollars for a small image for your household is expensive, imagine paying thousands of dollars for a larger custom made image for your temple? Because you got to pay the artisan, not whine that no one is offering up their art for the temple without compensation. Although icons are not a *must* they are typical for temples to have. Said images may  also come with expenses depending on the culture for perfumes, clothes, adornments etc.

5. Aside from the maintenance issues listed above, there are also numerous other expenses that go into a temple for regular worship, such as:
A. Incense to be used for the temple worship. You will go through a lot of incense. Even if you encourage individual to bring incense, regular rituals will consume huge amounts of incense. Again this is a temple, not your home.
B. Fresh flowers. This may not seem like a big deal until you start tallying the floral costs for flowers for the altar on a daily basis. It is going to be more than just a five dollar boquet of flowers. A temple will probably spend hundreds of dollars on flowers alone if that is something that is part of the traditions of that culture.
C. Food offerings. While it can be something supplied by worshipers, the temple will need to have something on hand, especially regular libations which can vary from culture to culture from milk, honey, wine, mead, beer etc etc.
D. If your temple participates in (humane) sacrifice of animals then you are also looking at the expense of either purchasing livestock from local farmers (most likely), or (less likely) have another piece of property away from the temple for livestock to be reared. In both cases you are looking at a significant cost.

The list can go on and on but this is a brief summary. For these costs you can see why it requires a large community to upkeep the temple. Even then for many communities temples were part of the tourist industry for that area, attracting visitors to the temple helped to pay for the expenses of the temple (as did I am sure the percentage that merchants paid for selling goods outside not too far away from the temple). You are looking at a huge vercatile number of people that is necessary for a successful temple who can put large sums of money into the temple collectively. And let me tell you if a couple hundred Alaskan Hindus are barely breaking even without being able to afford a priest, what is the reality of 2-20 people being able to do more than have a small chunk of land with an altar on it. Because that is what is realistic to accomplish, and even then I am sure it is tight coming up with the property taxes, because we all know how hard to is to get folks to part with their own money for religious stuff.

So that may be a huge downer, but look at it this way, it could still happen in the future. We all say that the heart of the religion starts at home. So put a small shrine at the edge of your yard if you like. But more so, invest in your relationship with the gods in your home every day, and just maybe enough households will be there even if it takes several generations down the road, that will be numerous enough to raise a temple. If we can’t build temples in our lifetimes, let us raise our children and support the raising of children in our respective religious communities and having them at religious events etc, make them a part of the religious life with all of its important dedications and devotions at different periods of life as they grow up and we will find that we are ultimately laying the ground work for having temples some day. It will be our great great grandchildren who will remember us and say that we were the generation, we were the people, who laid the foundations to make it all possible. We are the venerable ancestors for reviving our religions and raising temples in the future by what we do today in our homes.

An Adornment for Thee

For years there has been this compulsion this need to do a thing in honor of my lord. When I gave him vow and bowed before him in the Ceremony I imprinted his symbol into my flesh, a serpent coiled around my wrist for Siv-Apollon (for even then I was syncretic and my icon of him at the time was an intentional blending of the two cultural images much as I have been doing again, perhaps more successfully this time around). For his honor I sacrificed not only some funds, but also a moment of pain, the offering of my own flesh and blood to give honor to him in my joining my life in love and devotion to him.

Now it was the time to give again of my pain, my flesh and blood. This time I would give too of my tears. This time the offering is not only to honor him in demonstration of my love and devotion but also for his blessings for my marriage upcoming to a wonderful man in my life. In Hindu culture particularly, the nose ring has been a symbol of womanhood, and especially of the status of a married woman. Therefore as a bride of my lord it is of my commitment to him that I offer my own brief suffering to get it done as I gasped for breath against the pain and tears leaked out of my eyes as it was pierced, the ring put in, then taken out again because it had gotten caught on a layer of skin, and then a guide tool being put in the ring put in again. The experience had me gasping out my pain, the tears flowed from the corners of my eyes  as if my eyes were burning and stinging themselves. But I endured for his honor, and that I may happily greet the lasting union of my marriage to my fiancée.

Hail to you my lord.

Annapurna Parvati and Artemis the Nurse

Annapoorna

When I speak of Artemis as the divine nurse I don’t mean to bring forth the imagery of Artemis whipping out a breast to suckle newborns, or anything of the like. I don’t even agree that the orbs attached to the Ephesian statue are breasts (although Roman copies in Italy have exaggerated into breasts), rather I think of them as eggs which was a very important mystic motif in the Hellenic world. Rather, even as Artemis is widely associated with numerous streams and rivers, she is a goddess who at the birth of the baby draws up the nourishment for the baby (ie lactation). This is her provision of nourishment for the newly born who need to nurse as most warmblooded creatures require. It is for this purpose that she was likely honored by wetnurses of infant boys in Sparta, as well as her wide worship as Kourotroph (a role she shared with Hekate, and Ge notably). Her role of nourishment though should be taken in consideration of the sum of the whole.

She was important enough in the harvests that she sent the Calydonian Boar to ravage when she was forgotten in the harvest sacrifices. In Italy we find the cult of Diana which the sacred Nemoralia in August was said in part to have been celebrated to hold off autumn storms from devastating crops which may have some cross cultural sharing given the sacred laws inscribed in Greek at her temple). Artemis’s own role as Soteira, that we find a loose connection with human nourishment through protection of the crops, as well as protection of young animals that she provided as consumption as the huntress of the mature wildlife.  With her associations with rivers and streams there are also tentative association with freshwater fish. As such it is all connected with the concept of nurturer and sustenance that allows from growth and development.  As a huntress such growth and development, and thus proper nutrition, would be of high priority to her as a goddess who is also a huntress.

This quite relatable to Artemis’ manifestation in India as Parvati when she comes in the for of Annapurna. Although Annapurna is associated with provision of meals of rice and grain, she herself is not really, to my way of understanding, a grain goddess. She doesn’t bring the grain nor is she responsible for its production and cultivation. She provides the nourishment. It can be said that the food end-product which she distributes in order to feed men is more her area, something which began with her feeding the world with Shiva. She is overall a goddess of nourishment in general, “Ann” being food and “purna” referring to full or complete. In this sense she is considered too the goddess of cooking, which seems like a strange role to association the very apparently  undomestic Artemis with until we consider that cooking food is believed to have its origins in Neolithic hunting where game meat that would otherwise be too tough to consume was softened by cooking. In which case we can see a very tangible link between cooking and hunting despite notions of the person who brings home the bacon being separate from the person who cooks said bacon to borrow a colloquialism. Her associations, like Apollon, to the living flame further reinforces it. Again to look towards Nemi which may or may not have connection to the Hellenic Artemis cults, there was a significant votary connection between Artemis and the lamps of Vesta.  There are many ways in which we considered Artemis and Hestia to be cooperatively working goddesses, and the production of food in cooking would be a huge common territory.

Even the vague lunar associations that Artemis has are not distinct from Annapurna as the goddess is depicted seated with a moon upon her brow. The moon has a long history of association with making full and increase, which may be the basis of Artemis’ connection with the moon as well as it is not otherwise very clear exactly how the moon fits into her overall cults.  The pull of the moon on growth, the movement of the tides as well as tracking the times for harvest and planting (anyone seen a falmer’s almanac?) is quite significant when taken into consideration the vague connection Artemis seems to have with the harvest. Such connection becomes more evident when we look at myths in which Artemis, with Athena, was said to have led Persephone to the spot where Hades stole her away. The marriage of Persephone is very much lined up with the grain harvest and the sewing of the new seeds (plant eggs) which would be very evident in the worship of Artemis if she is implementing  these activities in her mystic mythic role. This certainly provides an interesting slant to Annapurna’s neglect of the food giving fields causing all things to go barren. It is not because she is responsible for plant growth necessarily. But the harvest and planting that is part of food production she plays a part in, just as wild animals disperse seeds through consuming them and defecating the seeds from their bowels. Consumption and food making are not separate from the process of cultivation, but neither are they directly the same. We see this too with animals in which Artemis is the huntress who provides for young creatures and protects them but has also been connected loosely with their fertility and reproduction even though she is not a fertility goddess strictly speaking. The connection between crops and animals is a close bond that we can even see even with Apollon and his associations with protecting and harvesting herds and crops alike. Her likeness in this respect with food grains is probably part of what significantly connected her as a daughter of Demeter whose myth of the barrenness of the earth bears similarity to that of Annapurna.

Further, associations with Artemis and primal energy can be linked to food as well which provides the physical body with energy, even as she herself fills the spiritual body with energy in the pursuit of her spiritual hunt towards driving forth our souls. I talk more of Artemis and energy in my post here. Likewise the prayer to Annapurna address she who gives her energy to Shiva, this is his nourishment, not the material food. In either case what is important to take away is less the myth surrounding what is going on but more towards what is being presided over. She is offering nourishment and sustainment to the body and the soul. This is the importance of this function of Artemis-Annapurna.

That said I can really easily imagine Apollon and Artemis getting into a heated argument over the importance of spiritual pursuits vs food/nourishment.