Fire Tending Devotions Stage 1

Whereas I still need a pillar to set up before the shrines to have the main lamps on for my fire tending observance this here is step one with each of the shrines (in one unified case) lit with their oil lamps. It is kind of funny how much bigger and brighter  Dionysos flame is, he whom I honor as the principle spark, the origin of all fire. Of course intellectually I know that this is due to the fact that his oil lamp is wide and shallow, whereas the lamp of Apollon and Artemis has a narrowed spout and is deeper. Still they are both quite beautiful. I have realized that I am now using my last two wicks which means that I am going to have to order a bulk package of cotton fiber wicks from to be shipped to me. The only thing I am irked about is that my statue of Naga Kanya (representing as Leto) *still* hasn’t arrived yet. I am going to have to drop a note to the seller and let them know I didn’t get it for some reason. Eventually I will be making a personal cult image of Dionysos (I already have something specific in mind) and will need to have a very small image to set in his drinking cup in order to be the main feeding image of the god as I have for Apollon and Artemis as can be seen in their picture. There was a kind of feeling of a wellspring settle over me as I poured the libation over the twin statues in the copper offering bowl and a well being settle over me as lotus incense burns on the shrines.

There is so much that will be developing over the next few months with this practice that every baby step seems like a wonder!

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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.

Why it is Beneficial for a Devotee of Apollon to Participate in Dionysian Mysteries

I have said this many times, that for years I have had a difficult time really getting close to Dionysos. I have had some inspiration moments related to him, but it seemed connections with him have always been fluid and have had their difficulties. And this has nothing to do with the Nietzchian Apollonian/Dionysian Dichotomy that is so popular…because I do not agree with it at all. But rather, I was often unsure of where I really related personally to the mysteries of Dionysos as a devotee and servant of Apollon.

Now when I was participating in an Orphic ritual in Hellas, I was given a small lamp to hold during ritual and was told that this is part of what those who belong to Apollon do. We are lightbearers (such as the leaders of the initiates, the mystagogs). For some time I have identified Apollon with Iakkhos in this understanding of Apollon who interacts with the mysteries of Dionysos and Persephone in multiple levels of being. He is the father of the Korybantes on one hand, the son of the Cretan Kourete Korybas. Thus he is associated with the actions of the Korybantes as they did for Dionysos what the Kouretes did for Zeus (and as Ephesian told it, the Kouretes played the same role for the birth of Artemis and Apollon at their Ortygian grove). The mystic dance of initiation, the protector and devourer of the god. Apollon’s domain in which he is associated in general to the rearing of the young to maturity (after which comes the slaughter and harvest as we see during his summer festivals) is intrinsic to his nature and is very much inseparable from his relationship with Dionysos. He is at once the god who is protector/rear and slayer of Dionysos while at the same time being the son of Persephone (or Demeter) and Dionysos. He is bound to Dionysos. Just as Dionysos tends to be linked to the passage of the sun through the heavens, Apollon is the passage of the heavens through time…he directs the movement of the heavens and all bodies within the heavens (including the son). That Apollon was later confused with the sun I think confused matters considerably, but I think just as Dionysos is symbolically related to the sun, so is Apollon’s relation to it on a symbolic level.  Anciently it was said that Dionysos is the sun at night and Apollon is the sun at day. This seems to just be a figurative way of showing that Apollon is the illuminator of the mysteries (which the sun is present in the heavens! that is the important key point), while Dionysos is the mysteries.

This means that for one who fully wishes to devote their lives and service to Apollon that it cannot be done by keeping things on a separate Dionysian/Apollonian level. This doesn’t seem to be the case for devotees of Dionysos, who get along just fine without engaging in Apollon (although I have known some who have undertaken certain activities on behalf of Apollon). But for someone who belongs to Apollon this is a different matter, and trying to understand our place in it. For Apollon is the nurturer of the young, the preserver…how does this play out with Dionysos? Apollon is the destroyer….that one is a bit easier understood I think through the Thyiades who alternately honored Apollon but raved in the winter for Dionysos and were said to slay the god with their hands. And then Apollon is the god of the burial, he would buries Dionysos slain by the titans. So how exactly am I meant to Work in relation to the Dionysian mysteries? Especially given my relationship is strongest with Apollon Karneios who seems to have a more blatant relationship with Dionysos.

Apollon and the Seasonal Dying God

Whether we are speaking of Adonis, Dionysos or Hyakinthios, Apollon has a certain undisputed relationship with seasonal dying gods. As a migrational god (probably why he is more aligned with herding and migratory birds…both which involve seasonal movement and only slightly with grain cycles in the ripening and safekeeping of the crops) he seems to have little in common with apparent agricultural associated dying gods. Except, that is he is always there. Therefore, while Apollon himself is not a dying god, he is firmly linked to those gods whose vitality is given to the earth in their sacrifice.

In the myth of Adonis we are told that, alternative the common narrative in which Ares is the boar who slew Adonis, that it was Apollon who took the form of a boar. By this act we find Adonis as a dying god whose festivities celebrated the end of spring before the onslaught of summer. Some have suggested in modern worship to rear seedlings and expose them to wither in the blistering heat of the sun in remembrance of this.  However, that the blood of Adonis turned the Adonis river in modern Lebanon red in the spring, it can be argued that like Dionysos whose autumnal sacrifice imbued life and vitality within the vineyards and the grape harvested for wine, imbuing the very sacred subsistence of the wine itself in his finest mysteries, Adonis died earlier in the spring (likely in line with modern Adonia worship in Hellas around the time of Easter) to imbue life into the vegetation. His representation by the very tender spring anemone flowers that spring from his yearly sacrifice of blood is a strong testimony to his lifeblood feeding the flowers and vegetation.

For a latter spring festival with similar theme we may look to the myth of Hyakinthios in which the youth was slain by accident by a disc (which most scholars to take for Apollon’s most favored disc…the heavenly disc of the sun). Although his blood yields the hyacinth flower, the correlation of the sun slaying the youth is more in line with what many folks have taken the Adonia to represent…the sun killing the last of the spring flowers even as the altar was piled with them. Despite the myth of the hyacinth flower, it is quite probable that Hyakinthios had a strong grain relationship established in his death cycle and myth given that on the first day of the Hyakinthia to honor the slain youth no bread was eaten. If we are talking about a late spring/on the verge of summer festival it would have been around the time of the grain harvest in the first part of summer. This cultic reference is the only connection to grain that we have though, so it may or may not be reaching to consider this. All the same, if we find Adonis being sacrificed by Apollon at the early parts of spring to renew the vegetation (in partnership with the cult of Aphrodite), it would follow in perfect sense that Hyakinthios (in partnership with the cult of Artemis Hyakinthia) would bear relation to the next stage that we find in which the heat of the warm dry season begins to reach it zenith and the spring vegetation gives its last hurrah as it were. Given that the beauty of Adonis bears much in common with Apollon (as well as Dionysos) and the apotheosis of Hyakinthios and his identification with Apollon we are following along a theme in which the slain god is in a manner identified with Apollon, likely by the subject and purpose of their slaying. That is to say…for the provision of subsistence for the herds/flocks (includes beasts and humans here).

This is very much true as well in Apollon’s relationship with Dionysos, perhaps even more so as the mysteries of Dionysos’ were of such paramount importance in Hellas. In this case the succor being provided by the action of Apollon the great herder is less about satisfying physical hunger and fending off famine and death, but more for helping in providing for the spiritual nourishment (which we find also in the worship of Persephone too but strictly speaking that is a different subject as she is more of a migratory goddess like Apollon is a migratory god than a *dying* goddess…but she provides the double boon of spiritual and physical succor for which it is not unusual that Apollon would play a role in her mysteries as well). In this respect we have the relationship between Dionysos and Apollon acting in very much a parallel fashion to that of Apollon and Adonis, and that of Apollon and Hyakinthios. Likewise in Plutarch we find identification of Dionysos with Apollon in his discussion on Delphi.  This is not to say, in my opinion, that they are the same god any more than Adonis and Apollon are the same, or Hyakinthios and Apollon are the same, but establishes the active relationship which *may* have originated in one proto-Indo-European deity that would account for similarities both Apollon and Dionysos enjoy in gods such as Jarilo/Yarilo and Shiva.

However that may be there is a special relationship ongoing between the cycles of the dying gods and Apollon’s own migratory cycle, one that cannot be ignored and contains within it a special meaning and coding within the mysteries of these gods. Apollon is enthroned on the tomb of Hyakinthios, Dionysos and Zagreus are buried at Parnassos where Apollon’s sanctuary is supreme, and Adonis died on the mountain sacred to Apollon (and Artemis) that took its name from his son. The cycles of these gods are part of him, he who is nurturer and slayer…the herder to whom the seasons and the winds of the seasons pay heed as turns the seasons around.

Frenzy, a love for Apollon and adoration of Dionysos

I am an Apollon’s woman. I cannot claim to be any maenad or thyiad that so honors Dionysos. I adore Dionysos, do not get me wrong. I don’t suffer from a common difficulty it seems to belong to one of these two gods and have difficult connecting to the other. Maybe it is because I allow myself to feel that adoration and accept the role that Dionysos plays in the mysteries of life and the cosmos, without it interfering with my relationship with Apollon.

Of course it could be argued that there is just a big gulf between the two gods that makes it difficult for people who have a intense devotional relationship with one brother to be able to establish a relationship with the other. After all we do not, not that I have seen anyway, find references to the Pythia being in a frenzy in number among the thyiads. And certainly Apollon does have his own play into frenzy which not only can be seen by the Pythia from ancient art but is also described in a manner by Euripedes in regarding Kassandra when she is seized by the god in prophecy. It would suggest then that frenzy for Apollon is solely prophetic and serves an entirely different purpose than the frenzy of Dionysos. Under such light it would seem to affirm that there is a distinct gulf between the Dionysian mystic frenzy and the Apollonian prophetic frenzy, and that this gulf makes a greater distinction between the brothers.

I am not so sure of this myself, not only from my experiences but also from mythological example. In such examples it is not the allegiance has switched from one god to another, but that in being a part of the spiritual body of one god that they are celebratory of the presence of the other appropriately. In such we find the Muses. Not only is Dionysos, like Apollon, called Musagetes, the leader of the Muses, but we also have mythic account in which we are told that Dionysos, upon arriving at Parnassos, is greeted by Apollon and that the Muses rave for the god. At Delphi too we have Thyia, a nymph, who bore Delphus to Apollon in their love affair and yet is also considered the first among the thyiads. This is not, I do not think, a simple matter of a switch off as people take the context of Delphi itself as being, but rather it seems to be that it is part of their relationship with Apollon to respond to Dionysos this way.

I say this because the very character of Apollon in his relationship with Dionysos rarely takes form of being oppositional. In fact more often than not it is just the opposite. He is the first to greet the young god, this makes him the first to celebrate and honor him, and in this context we can understand the exhuburent adoration that those who are his may be inclined to greet Dionysos. In the Orphic Hymns he and Artemis alone are called Bacchic outside of Dionysos, revealing that the relationship of these gods to Dionysos is one that is celebratory and illuminating for the mysteries of the god (which likewise repeats in their roles in regards to the mysteries as leaders of the processions). He nurturers the vine in its growth and preparation for harvest, he guards the bull and lamb from predators until the day that they are meant to be slaughtered. As such it would seem that Apollon himself would have been the first Bacchic (and thus providing his son Orpheus as the teacher of the mysteries of Dionysos) for which he is lauded in the hymn by that title, and why he would have been hymned to as the son of Persephone and Dionysos in the great mystery program.

Apollon’s music is the fundamentals of the cosmos in all its varying harmonies, pitches  and rhythms. Even in the most unorderly music his order can be found. The dithyramb which is so different than his sacred paean, the dithyramb of Dionysos being an excellent example. Wouldn’t it be logical that with the mythical context above that Apollon would have been the first  singer to Dionysos. Certainly this seemed to have occurred to Diodorus Siciulus, for when he was speaking of Egypt he had said that the brother organized the singing troops of Dionysos. Apollon, the marshaller of the host.  He is at once the destroyer, the guardian and the celebrant. His voice rouses the spirit, and his song  drives the spirit. He is a great charioteer.  He is among the Dionysian company playing his music as the bacchantes lift their song and frenzy for the god.

It is in this manner that I am quite comfortable with adorations and worship of Dionysos despite my love and devotion to Apollon. It is not an either/or thing. It fits together. It is in fact part of my service to Apollon to so  celebrate Dionysos. In fact, it is my belief that this is especially true in the winter when Dionysos has descended to the netherworld at the time in which Apollon is in Hyperborea which I consider a realm of the land of the Blessed. It is thus an appropriate part of my devotion in which I imagine the cosmic song of my lord and king greeting and  lauding the god in his return, and even more so again at Apollon’s return and his banquet at the Theoxenia.

It is by being Apollon’s  that I am able to truly  understand how I can best celebrate and honor Dionysos, and that by honoring Dionysos that I am too honoring Apollon by his own Bacchic nature. There is no conflict within me regarding this, and my soul too rejoices all the while in Dionysos as I am meant to do.

The Purification and Expiations of Winter

It has been snowing, although at this hour the snow from last night and this morning is slowly melting away, I spent some time this morning before work watching the large fat flakes of winter scatter from the heavens across the ground. Ah winter, it has arrived. I can clearly understand why once it was considered to be two seasons, rather than four to have been imagined. The season of fruition, of life, that which is the summer part of the year, and that of winter. Not a season of death so much, for death happens throughout the year, with the burning heat of the sun and the dwindling of life in autumn. Death is always around everywhere. Rather it seems more to be about the washing away, the purification (for which we have January named after Janus by the Romans, recognizing that there must be a cleansing before the return of life in the spring.

It becomes about sowing the crop for the next year, with prayers and all hope that the next year be fortuitous . It is the rainy season through which the clouds roll over the heavens. In warmer climes winter is marked by downpours, in cooler climes by blankets of snow. Wash away, O Gods, and prepare. This washing of the earth is simultaneously not only purifying but also fertile. The very season in which men dared not to travel on the sea and offered libations to Poseidon is the same season in which Pan, that virile god, fertilizes the land. He seeks and finds Demeter. Zeus, coiled into the recesses of the soil into the arms of Persephone. In the darkness, that which is cleansed is impregnated. Zeus, the impregnating golden shower. And lusty Dionysos rises just before the dawn of spring with his hallowed festivals which the honorable dead hold dear, and the fruit of the last year is tasted with the first casks open in the dawn of spring during Anthesteria, amid the lambing/calving season in which Apollon’s pastoral birth occurs, he who is lord of the season of fruits.

For all this talk of Purifications and Expiations it begs the question, why is the god of purifications, Apollon, away in the far lands during this season? If we consider that Hyperborea on one level, as was observed by some ancient opinions, was synonymous with land of the west (Elysium), even that which the gardens of Apollon in which even his “Libyan” gardens were confused by Pindar and to which he took Kyrene the lion-slayer, we find that Apollon is present in the winter but acting on another plane. This would likely not be too dissimilar to Persephone in the winter who is away from the company of Olympians but very much present on another chthonic level. If we consider that Hyperborea may have been the equivalent to Elysium, or some specific part of Elysium, and Apollon’s own mother was from this sacred land it certainly draws strong parallels to mystic tradition in which Persephone is the mother of Apollon as Iakhos, master of the winds. The great castle of which were considered all the liminal periphery of the next world even as the house of Helios and Selene, the two luminous bodies of the heavens had castles into the underworld to which they retired. This makes Apollon, in the winter, a chthonic force that acts from within/from afar.

He is not present in the downpour of rain, but within the earth, purifying it, even as the Erinyes, his elders (who Aeschylus has complain of Apollon as a usurper god of their providence as a clear demonstration of his powers and direct relationship to them), are purifying the dead who come into the underworld. He is working hidden, the Letoide (child of Leto, the hidden/obscure) on the fruits of the earth. For he makes fruitful, makes the cows carry twin calves, and the ewes twin lambs. He is as wealth in some respect, the wealth of plenty and crops, a suitable brother for Ploutus, the god of wealth. He is the god, who in the Orphic hymn views the very roots of all things. He cleanses all things at its deepest level. Even as the streams themselves lead to the underworld and the greatest among them (Styx, Lethe and Mnemonsyne) run forth there, Hesiod too, in his Theogony, calls all the streams and Apollon among them as those which are ordained for nurturing the young. The waters nurture and purify, and Apollon is among them.

O Apollon Hyoerboreios, you assuredly are working from afar, from the far places, hidden and obscure, O fiery chthonic lord, O Soranus of the wolfen cap, you cleanse all by your fire, you Lykeios stir the howling winds O Telkinhios. For you have set aside your golden crown, dancing in the night, You who purify even as the rain of Zeus washes all the world. Let us begin anew..

I see why the Dorics considered the onset of winter following the autumn equinox to be the beginning of a new year. It makes a certain sense to me. As much sense as the probable reason why the Romans, who were likely strongly influenced by the Southern Italian Hellenic colonies (Grecia Magna) moved their own traditional new year from March to January. All things best begin with the purifications, as who have given ritual unto the gods well know!

Let Madness Reign

Let madness reign
Let panic pray
to the gods above
In the haunt of the dead
In the grove of the dove.
Let madness dance
Let panic laugh
While the wolf god is away
The saffron lord is drinking draughts
Of liquor honey and spice
Beyond the dragon eye of Koios
Beyond the howling breath of winter,
For now is the hour of Pan
Whose laugh is a whirling tune
Of O that madness that we seek
As we trip merrily along
Adorned in a festive array of color
And the masks are grinning in the dark
As we sip from the cup of his shepherd’s song.
The beer it runs, the wine it runs as blood
And like grinning clowns we drink it down
Our lips stained red with our feast
For the king of day is afar and away
And another day he shall strip from us our flesh;
That coin with which we pay
To attend the banquet of Dionysos.