Pouring Over the Icon

The most familiar images of the gods that we possess tend to be humanized icons in appearance of gods and goddess in various forms and depictions of strength, grace and beauty. Yet I have found that these images have a tendency to be treated with a certain delicacy and untouchable status. In some cases this is understandable if the icon is made from terracotta or some substance that will be ruined if not set in some secure position in your worship in which the icon is kept sterile and removed from direct interaction of the cult activity.

The problem with this in my own observation is that the god becomes isolated in direct involvement of the worship. I mean it is all fine and good offering a vessel of wine, water, mead or juices of fruits to the gods, but for me there is not the personal and most direct manner of giving the offering as comes when pouring it over an icon. Of course the result is that not only you are directly feeding your icons and more directly the deity in question, but you are also having to engage in more personal maintenance and caretaking of the icon in a direct manner such as bathing the icon so that it remains clean and pure. When I first began to really engage in polytheism I had small statues of the primary deities of my household made of suitable material for which I was able to feed my statues wine. Sometimes the aftermath with wine can look a little gruesome, particularly with my habit at the time of pouring the wine directly over the lips rather than over the whole of the statue which made the statues look more than a little vampiric, but all the same I found it be an immensely satisfying way of life that I still engage in to this day.

Of course there are some risks involved. Some material, such as alabaster, is prone to staining. An image made of a good stone or resin seems to work the best for directly feeding statues. Yet with some deities it is even easier….I am speaking of gods with aniconic images, which is typical among Zeus, Apollon and his famed Agyieus stone, and the herm of Hermes….yet we also know from notes of Pausanias that several deities were likewise represented in a herm like fashion with nothing more than a carved head which would suggest that nearly any deity was potentially worshipped in such a manner, although the three aforementioned ones were those most commonly associated with the household above all in these forms. When it is a stone it makes life a lot easier. You still have to clean it and maintain it, as it is still an iconic of your deity and representation of them manifested, but the cleaning and maintaining because much easier.

This is not say that our alabaster and terracotta images don’t have a place. My large terracotta images  of Apollon and Artemis overlook smaller images which are the more direct cult image over which offerings are poured. When set up together on a shrine the icons collectively together become different kinds of vessels acting in worship. Each having their place and importance. So I am not suggesting that anyone needs to ditch their more delicate icons, but rather it may be good to include more basic icons that can have more direct interactions that can be fed and even swathed in lovely materials after fed and cleansed, and so adorned beautifully. To experiment and experience such may very well lend another dimension to how you experience your relationship with your gods that may be worth exploring. At least I have found it to be so! And my more resent engagement with Hinduism has reinforced this for me as being profound, even as I have seen it as powerful through ancient practices. Just think of how importance the festive bathing and dressing of the cult statues was in ancient Hellas! There was an obvious direct interaction through the icon of the deity that was valued.

Boedromia and the Departure of Apollon

The Autumn Equinox marks the departure of Apollon, and ironically this year Boedromia, a festival which celebrates Apollon as savior through evoking fear (which I still stand behind having something to do with repelling unwanted spirits), falling on the day of his departure is kind of an odd feeling….yet perhaps not so abnormal when you think of it that Apollon would be driving out evil, a helping god as he departs, even though I do not often think that these occasions would have fallen so close together, but it works. And as Boedromia is the last festival of Apollon before the autumn equinox it is not surprising that their may be a correlation there in one way or another.

As I am focusing on Apollon Lykeios as Apollon Hyperboreios, one who is not so much afar as not connected to civilization and humanity in a tangible or noticeable way, he is the god in the depths of nature as much as the god in the sacred garden of the next world. He is a god that is hidden in plain sight, the wolf prowling the twilight hours, the wolf who is denning in the sacred caverns awaiting to receive Dionysos. Howling force, cleansing and liberating the people, paving the way even as Persephone descends to her husband, hallowed and pure. Meanwhile the air is cool and the autumn leaves are rustling on the trees, as the snow threatens to descend from the mountains where it currently wrests. Apollon Lykeios sings with primal power as Dionysos is laughing with mad delight in the hour of Boedromia and Apollon’s departure, for the wild presence of the wild god, his beloved brother, emerging.

A Meditation on Hestia, Dionysos and the Twins

There have been those who have said that Dionysos replaced Hestia on Olympos as one of the 12 great Olympians (I am not going to even get into how variations differed from region to region on what gods made up said set but rather deal with this solely). While there is no ancient textual support for this, I think that the tendency of people to want to exchange Hestia for Dionysos says something very profound in their relationship.

As I said in an earlier post, Dionysos is as the divine spark. We see this two in myths of his sacrifice where he is consumed by the Titans and that spark is handed down from him into each of us to create the divine spark of our souls. Yet we all know too that Hestia dwells at the center of all things, as does Zeus who dwells within and around all things. If we consider that Dionysos is part of Zeus (although is not Zeus at the same time anymore than Asklepios who is part of Apollon is Apollon) then we are still left with three beings of the center of all things. Zeus who dwells there by virtual that he is within all things  as king of the gods and cosmos, and yet Hestia by merit that she is by necessity as the goddess of the hearth, that goddess who dwells there by reason that she feeds the fires that dwell within all things (although the assumption is that she is the living fire within all things, I think that this more accurate that in accordance with her actual cult that she sits in the center of all things much as she dwells in the center of Olympos, at Delphin and within each house for the purpose of tending the fires within. This makes her necessary to dwell at the center, and that no life could be without her presence there.

However if Dionysos is indeed the divine spark as is suggested by myth, that which is carried within all of us from birth and even through the passages of death, then it makes sense that Dionysos must dwell in the center, and may be that very attribute or part of Zeus that dwells within even as he is the genitive part of Zeus via the myth of his birth from the thigh of the god so near his reproductive organs. He is the seed of the life, germinating within all things, appropriate too for a deity associated with the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. In which case we can see him too as described as the child of Haides. He is the spark of flame which Hestia nurturers. As such he cannot take her place at Olympos. Hestia essentially is Olympos, as her presence therein at the center gives life to the divine realm of the gods. There would be no Olympos without her. Just the same Dionysos dwells within Olympos as the divine fire of Olympos, the spirit of Olympos. For his first incarnation as Zagreus he was made by his father Zeus as king, and in such a fashion is united with Olympos even as his substance is united with all beings on the earth.

Yet we find Artemis at Olympos as that goddess which brings the hinds of her hunt  which are received by Apollon (or in later traditions by Herakles who was said to have been given the duty by Apollon). We see Artemis and Apollon at Olympos as beings which feed and invigorate the halls of the gods. They are as nurse and caretaker of Dionysos as they are of Olympos, providing stability and even bringing happiness and joy by their activity therein (as we find Apollon in the poem of Kallimachus arriving among the company of the gods and by his song making all the gods merry and dancing happily). Dionysos too is credited with bringing much joy and happiness to the company of the gods, and his own substance being that which is preferred among the gods apart from all others. In other poems we have Apollon with the Muses being the first to greet Dionysos and making merry in his presence. Although Apollon and Artemis bring substance to Olympos, it is the presence of Dionysos, the ever dwelling flame of Olympos who is the spark of all source of happiness and merriment and by such is much beloved.

Such can be acknowledged in the relationship of the brothers, Apollon and Dionysos. Whereas Artemis after had a nurse like relationship, or nurturing relationship with him, even if at times being one of primal conflicts, the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos is which we overlaps. I would consider there that many of the overlaps deal with this very nature of Apollon and Dionysos acting together as is essential in nature. Dionysos dwells within civilization and the arts of civilization which nurture and inspire the soul into growth and development as the essential spark of this creative potential from the divine. Apollon acting with Dionysos brings forth these very same things. His music gives form to the fire. He is at the center, at the axis directing the movement of all things around it. His music is the influence upon the central spark, providing direction and informing upon it. He is the first celebrant, the bacchic one along with his twin Artemis.  They dance about the divine spark as Hestia tends eternally to it. Essential and inseparable together as they weave their part of life and the cosmos, as Leto who is as night, the womb of life which gives birth to bring forth the light, even as Apollon and Artemis are of the twilight ushering in the light and as such part of its manifestation.

To them I tend them all I tend to the flames for the very heart of life.

Tending the Sacred Fire

As I am going to into fire keeping as a devotional practice of unity among three (but also including Hestia and Hephaistos) primary gods of my household, Apollon and Artemis, and Dionysos, I have been giving much thought of the nature of physical fire as it manifests, and what my relationship will be to it as a firekeeper, as well as how it will be part of my relationship with my gods. So I am going to break this down into talking about each of the gods and their relationship to the fire. The fire itself I see as a physical manifestation of them acting collectively.

Hestia and Hephaistos: These deities actually have very similarly related functions when it comes to their relationship with fire. It is really for this reason that I am not surprised by mystic pairings of them either. I do not see Hestia as the living flame, as I have stated in numerous posts, but rather that which supports and sustains the flame towards a purpose. She is the hearth and the oven (the later of which I will fully admit is more supported by time as a Vestal and understanding of Vesta in association with bread production) and the altar, all through which sustenance passes as caregiver to sustain our relationships and kindred. She is likewise the structure which supports the living spiritual fire/souls/divinities with in as via her association with Olympos, her association with Delphi and each household. She is described poetically in her Homeric hymn as a goddess who locks drip with oil, her very being, rather being described as being of fire, is being which nurses the flame beside which, and around which, she is seated, or even bearing as a blooming branch. She makes it possible to sustain new generations of the oikos, and for the gods themselves to receive the offerings of mortals. This makes her important to the oikos not only for sustaining the living fire within the hearth which is necessary but as a goddess of the oikos itself.  Hephaistos too utilizes fire functionally, but rather than being of the hearth/altar/household/etc he is a god of the forge, he bears the blooming fire as his in order to use it to create and manifest new forms. Both are working with creative and transformative manipulation of fire and so fire is theirs under their directions. Hephaistos has a lesser role in my life since I am not a metalsmither or forger (although I have blacksmiths among my ancestors) but he is present and acknowledged as a presence associated with these duties I am undertaking in relationship with them.

Apollon and Artemis: These are the deities who have been inspiring me to work with fire keeping. They are fire deities in what I consider an indirect way. That is to say I consider them hot wind-like deities. While they are not the spark and very nature of the flame, they are part of the flame and give form to its nature. They are the organic and natural controlling force of fire that generates fire to manifest in different forms. A fire may be small and warming, comforting, or  a raging firestorm out of control devouring all things. There is a certain close relationship with Apollon and Hestia in particular in which we see is part of the relationship as pertaining to flames, as Apollon and Hestia working cooperatively. Or even Artemis who is often depicted with torches and lamps (and in the case of Diana votive offering of oil lamps was commonly found that have led some scholars to think that there was a link of some kind between Diana and Vesta). As such this explains too why Apollon and Artemis are so enamored with springs and rivers, that the water loving nature of these gods is perfectly complimentary to their hot natures, cooling and delighting them. Their relationship with fire is to give it manifestation in which it sustain life for warmth and food cooking (both of which are paired with functions of Hestia’s manipulation and guidance of fire) and manufacturing (with Hephaistos) but to also be destructive and consuming (as particular to funerary service as associated with Apollon). Interestingly their action on water is similar that they can bring and calm storms on the seas as windy deities, however this seems more towards travel specifically where as fire is more tied to their regular cultus. They give strength and vitality to fire by which manifests in one particular form or another. Likewise fire gives a more physical manifestation to the action of these deities than the less corporeal wind does, it is the vehicle for the most direct and immediate actions for the above addressed, as well as for the creative spiritual fires inspired by Apollon.

Dionysos: I struggled with this one, because while I did acknowledge that Dionysos was linked to the nature of fire and he would be part of my fire keeping service, I was not able to pin it down how this connected for me until it came to me in a burst of inspiration. Potential, divine spark. He is the actual spark of the flame, the raw principle of the fire which contains all the potential for its creative (both procreative and artistic), and destructive nature. He is raw and terrifying as much as he is sweet. Changeable as fire is. The spark of divinity within all things, for which he dwells continuously within and beside each of us through the span of our lives and journey into the next world. He is endlessly both consuming and lovingly tender at the same time, never by nature either one or the other unless through a specific medium of influence.

Thus the unity of these deities in the fire service, because in a way they are very inseparable to me.

The Sowing, Boedromia and the Fear

Things have been rather connecting for me. First as the Noumenia for the month Boedromia, we are looking at the wrapping up of the harvest season and the start of what is for many places the start of the sowing season. This was actually a topic of conversation with a friend of Facebook in regards to the Descent of Persephone and the debate of when Persephone descended into the next world to join Haides, for there are those who firmly support her period to line up with the summer harvest of grains in June, following the immature harvest of the Thargelia in honor of Apollon rather like the Karneia harvest of grapes proceeding to the grape harvest immediately following, and the fallow period of the grain fields to correspond to her descent. While this looks good from a logical angle of relating Persephone with the wheat ear, but for me it alienates a few important points.

Perhaps the most important is that it is completely out of alignment with the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries which occur in Boedromion, which would suggest that the mysteries of the descent of the goddess were not directly connected to the threshing floor and the cutting of the wheat ear, but rather by the sowing season that follows in which the grain of the wheat ear is directly planted within the ground. This would also make sense in the context of the Boedromia which seems to me to act as a purification ritual that is not uncommon prior to harvest and planting seasons cross culturally. I have written before on the Boedromia and the power of fear in the ritual but I had never really connected it to how it fit within the framework of Athenian festivals that focused on the sowing season from the honoring of Zeus Epoptes (the overseer as I interpret it, although usually understood more directly in association of the word in context of the mysteries as one who has seen/witnessed the mysteries, therefore one that can be interpreted as the first initiate as the god who schemed with Haides with the result of instigating the mystery program and the saving of the dead by them), and the Genesia on the same day as that of the sacrifice to Zeus Epoptes which honored the ancestral dead/parents, leading up to the Mystery Program.

Yet Boedromia, for which the month is named, should logically fall into relation with the greater events occurring within the month, instead what we have is a mythic origin of the festival in which Apollon urged the Athenian to invoke Fear and shout Boe at the invading Amazon troops to save their city. I have written on this subject before here at more length in particular regarding the role of fear and its important to this festival and general importance in the mysteries. But I think the connection to purification and vitality wasn’t really brought home until I read Dver’s new website (she links to it on her blog here) on mumming and the purpose behind this as one which uses fear in order to frighten away harmful spirits in order to purify the land and bring vitality to it. I would liken this perhaps to the more northern Lupercalia practices in February in which youths, Luperci would, as wild wolves, run through the streets, striking women to encourage fertility, and I would imagine the fierceness of their visage being one that was designed to purify the city as much as the sacrifice itself. I would imagine that the Boedromia serving such a purpose as it proceeds to the mystery program, that after honoring the dead, a kind of purification underway, under the mythic guise of honoring the driving out of the Amazons. Although we cannot know for sure to what lengths this festival proceeds, or whether or not there was an actual procession of shouters of “boe!” to frighten away any ill spirits in the same vein of intent, it certainly seems plausible in its calendric relationship to the Eleusinian Greater Mysteries.

As such I could see the fascinating mumming practices that Dver has undertaken and has put up a website about to be likely very relevant to modern practice of Boedromia, as Apollon, leader of the initiates (and even making sense in those myths which call him the father of Korybantes considering their own fearsome natures) and the known sacrifice of goats to Artemis prior (both twins being honored in terms of helpers or saviors), purifies the city and its citizens to receive the blessings of Demeter. Given the very powerful, and clearly frightening, persona of the Amazons there is certain alignment to the strength and power of Demeter that should not be missed.

Given Artemis’ own participation in leading forth Persephone to her kidnapping, and the presence of the tender narcissus flower, or asphodel which it is also called especially in relation to the mysteries–which would not be able to bloom in the killing the summer during which they were dormant, we find a more logical scenario in which the winter flowering plant in such climate would align with following the autumnal purifications and sacrifices. The relationship between the purification deities Apollon (who receives double sacrifices as Zeus does during the Eleusinia) and Artemis and the descent of Persephone, and Artemis subsequent leading of Persephone to the meadow of the scene of her kidnapping/marriage is all interlinked to each other as they proceed following the summer time Athenian New Year.

Therefore it makes sense to greet Boedromia as a time of reverence for ancestors/dead parents and as a time of purification perhaps not too unlike how many pagans celebrate the Samhain season….although with a slightly different purpose as Hellenes would have prepared for the planting of the wheat grains. For those of us who are not planting grain seeds (especially among those of us  in more northern climates) we can honor this time of the year with the planting of bulbs before the onset of winter. What in Hellas would be a chilly wet time of the year that proceeds the germination of the grains, those of us in the north can recognize as the very important wet period that is so necessary for the coming of spring as the blankets of snow keep the ground from freezing deep and providing water for the crops come spring.

In Alaska, and other northern climates we can best appreciate this time of the year with the sweet tastes and musks of autumn harvest concluded as the earth winds down in decay and the nights lengthen. It is a time before the slumber, a time of wild beasts and night terrors, a time to drive to spirits “boe! boe! boe!” to prepare for the coming life giving wet season whether one experiences it through rain or snows.

A Change in seasons, Noumenia and My New Shrine

Nothing is more profound in moving than when it comes to that moment you set up your shrine in your new house. The way the shrine manifests in your new home is an exciting time because it never manifests the same way. In a new home it lays the groundwork for an entirely new type of work and devotional direction. It is exciting, exhilarating…and uncertain. There is a dread of “what if it falls apart” or ” what if this doesn’t work right”. Yet when it comes together it is a moment of beauty….a new season in your devotional life and daily life all at once.

I have finally gotten moved into my new house. It was an exhausting amount of work to accomplish in such a short time, but to have it all finished before the Noumenia is a great reward to be able to really enjoy my house and the shrines of my gods in completion in greeting the new month. What is more who knew that this would be a month for such a new direction to take shape in my life. I am delving more into my relationship with Dionysos, but having a new direction in my relationship with Apollon is a new adventure. His space is enclosed, like a den surrounded by swaths of cloth, he is the one who loves the hidden places. He is set apart. He is as the raging fire and so his lamp is within his small enclosure with his cult image on his shrine. The enclosure being made from a small metal table brings to mind of a feeling of a hearth or an iron brazier that contains the living flame. I have considered for some time that Hestia is not so much the fire herself in the strictest sense but as a goddess of the hearth and lady of the oiled locks she is that which contains and sustains the fire. This would well explain the myth of Apollon’s attraction and infatuation and desire to marry her (and her subsequent dwelling within his temple at Delphi as well as at Olympos). In the case of more chthonic fire which is more magmatic in its nature I would even suggest this has associations with concepts of Romans associating Vesta with the earth. We know the devouring and warming fires of the hearth, and we know the solar fires which operates in unity with Helios. The fire, the raging winds, these are Apollon, and which are going to be important to me this winter I feel. And so I see perhaps why I was strongly motivated during the construction of this new manifestation of the shrine to have it in this form. The wolf in his den, the flame burning within the iron brazier,  the god of illumination shining from the hidden places. To have a divination given to me in which it was suggested to me that I may want to engage in fire keeping the very next day after setting up this shrine was quite a big revelation to me as to why I was pushed towards this end, a compelling I could not ignore.

A new season is coming around, and the slight apathy I had been feeling before has shed away given way to excitement towards what is to come. Devotion to the lord of the raging elements, the living giving and destroying. The wolfish one. Hail Apollon!


Changes, Transformations and Purifications

There are many gods which I think fairly should be recognized for changes and transformations that occur in life. We experience many such changes as we go along from the moment we enter into the world, beginning our days with a small collection of deities that address the welfare of the young, with an ever expanding number of deities getting involved at different life stages as if through a sort of evolutionary progress of one’s life. Yet the key deities almost always involved consistently are Apollon and Artemis (and to a degree their mother Leto) which I consider, in connection to my post regarding their domains as gods of the action of nature as destroying and nurturing forces. In many ways this links to their very real historic cult associations with significant life changes. As I have many new changes coming into my life, with another new baby on the way, and moving into our new (and more permanent) home, has made this kind of a fixture in my mind lately in my relationships with them.

Apollon and Artemis are the premier deities of the newly born. Whether this be the newly born month (Apollon Noumenios, and some have also taken to calling Artemis as Noumenia), the newly born child over which the guard and care-take from being taken prematurely into death during its most tender days, as well as the significant changes of maturing into adulthood and the marital rites (which participation during their youth in the cults of these deities were blessed by marriage as adults). Even their positions at the doorway enters into this, as we enter and exit into new states of being every time we pass our threshold with the very different environments of being within one’s home under the protection of the household gods, and outside interacting in the world outside of the household which had more threats to one’s wellbeing. To enter into one’s household was a kind of purification itself before these gods who guard the doorway (usually by means of offerings to the gods of the doorway and even possibly washing oneself at the entrance), just as we find the gods of the gates acting similarly in a larger scale with cities in which armies were not permitted to pass through the gates until they were purified. This applies to the processes of death and spiritual evolution.

In a sense, with Apollon as a guardian god of the gates of transformation/apotheosis/etc and Artemis as the goddess of the energy which sustains and drives all to these ends, we can see how and why Apollon and Artemis would be significant deities present in any momentous changes in one life….even those changes which are by necessity determined by the Fates for a purpose of impact to our beings that we may not always find individually favorable when they are experienced as painful. Growth and change is often in fact painful or at very least uncomfortable. There is a sorrow of a new bride who has to leave behind the things of her child just as she presented momentos of her childhood to Artemis, and leave behind too the familiar gods and spirits of her household to occupy that of her husband’s. There is the pain of bringing new life into the world, even pain and anxiety of bringing any kind of new creation forth from our minds as Zeus labored greatly in his head to bring forth Athena, by the tools of Hephaistos (another significant god of transformation as the god who enables/gives form to the new forms taken to which I would say Eilethyia almost matches as a goddess of labor pains as being another part of the process…which may be telling as to why between Apollon as the father of the Korybantes and Hephaistos as the father of the Kaireboi we find them as fathers of gods who oversee the most divine change in the arrival of the savior god whether that be Zeus or Dionysos, and the close connection between Eleithyia and Artemis).

Apollon and Artemis remind that that one of the most important things with the come of significant changes and transformations in our lives, that purification is a very important part of the process. Not only does it remove any pollution that we may otherwise taken into our new existence (extra baggage need not be brought), it also allows us in many ways to start fresh and newly born. A home is to be purified before the gods are welcome into it when a new home is established. Purifications are done upon the household, mother and infant after the baby has successfully survived its first seven days of life. Purifications following the allotted period necessary after death of a family member in residence (usually 30 days). Even the rites of passage into states of youths and maidens by children were themselves purification rituals in form….in varying degrees of aggressiveness depending on the place (the rites on youths at the temple of Artemis Orthia is a great example of particularly violent forms of what could be considered purifying rites. Even those who practice some form of magic or spirit work will often begin and end with varying degrees of intensive purifications depending on the deities and spirits concerned.

It makes sense that under any new change in one’s life that a sensible spiritual act would be one of purification, to even approach these gods (at the doorway if you have them established enshrined no where else within your house) and engage in purifications in preparation. Often the simplest and most common means when not dealing with serious transgressions that require purification, is by water although some people also utilize incense smoke into it as well. This can be considered of the same nature as the purifications that are undergone as part of  Hekate’s Deiponon and the Noumenia for the wellbeing of the household as the new month changes round. Really it is the same principle. I myself engage in regular purifications that includes daily bathing and fumigations with smoke as part of my devotions.

One of these easiest ways to conceive of the necessity of purifications is in a philosophical understanding of Artemis. Artemis herself is connected to rivers in very significant ways and is associated herself as being a holy river that brings forth the blessings of the gods. This can be most notable in her role as Artemis Eurynome in which she oversees the purification of the infant Zeus following his birth (perhaps the only significant after birth purification myth that I have found aside from the travel of Leto to Xanthus to purify and bathe her twins. The fact that Artemis and Apollon have many strong river cult associations is relevant to this purpose. The water itself is pure and the purity of its nature is that which carries away the stains of miasma. This is perhaps because water itself has the observable ability to dissolve and carry away particles that gives it such strength. Therefore the purification by water is a kind of release, and unblockage as water is unhindered and one is left open to receiving the blessings of the gods and spirits. The agency of the purifying water itself becomes the first expression of divine blessing…in the cases of rivers purifying gods the blessings go both ways with the deity being purified likewise blesses the body of water such as we find in the case of Xanthus, or even in the case of the river Peneios who offered to withstand the anger of Hera to offer shelter of Leto for the birth of her son (Peneios who incidentally was the father of Daphne who herself underwent a massive transformation into a laurel tree but was also the purifier of Apollon later after slaying Delphyne).

Therefore, like a fount of water or living stream, purification allows access to us to begin a new way, and at the forefront we find Apollon and Artemis there who are the god who are first to bestow their blessings as gods of the purifying agent and gods who preside fundamentally (although not exclusively) over transformation and changes.