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.

The Destroyer with a Kindly Face

For a god whose domain is largely focused on the natural forces which demolish life and form, it may seem odd that he is often portrayed looking beautiful and often kindly faced. I saw a lovely photo shared of the remains of an archaic statue of Apollon from Delphi (the same one which is the banner of my blog that I myself photographed, but at a different angle and by a different photographer) in which the person who originally shared it commented on how sweet his expression is. A person who is familiar with the sweeter and kinder images of Apollon may find it more appropriate for Apollon as known as a god of civilization and the arts than what they would think to associate with a god of destructive natural forces. Yet if we understand Apollon who is a god of civilization and the arts by his compassion and love to hold back and protect civilization from his harsher forces that it may flourish we can see very well how the god of nature’s destructive forces could have come as a being of beauty and infinite kindness and compassion.

This is more poignant when we understand Apollon as a god who has twice been exiled (once by his own means and once again into slavery by his father) and of the gods knows well concepts of suffering and tears, especially given spending a term in human existence which few gods have experienced in myth outside of Dionysos.  Thus the myth brings revelation of Apollon as a god in contact with human experience. And yet unlike Dionysos, he is not a dying god. In fact he never matures beyond the transitional point between youth and manhood, eternally young and beautiful like a serpent with which he is intimately associated and form he has often taken that sheds its skin that it ever appears to be youthful and unchanged in the height of its beauty.

The most important thing that has been highlighted in myth regarding Apollon as a god for nature’s destructive forces is that while he can be violent and appear to be cruel in some instances if myth were taken literally, it rather highlights the distinction between organic and natural death/destruction by way of nature and that of murder. Apollon is represented in both instances at once. When he is exiled he is a murderer and thus he often penalizes murderers who come to him for purification in cases of accidental death especially and sentences them to travel afar in exile to form new colonies in penitence. He understands murder as one who has committed murder in the company of the gods, and as such he represents the understood distinction between murder and organic death/destruction. Apollon is presented in literature I believe as undergoing murder because this distinction of understanding is essential for his role in nature. For a distinction between natural death and murder myth is used to illustrate the differentiation as being fully formed in the domain of the god. Although Apollon has murdered and understands murder in myth, he himself abhors murderers and sends them abroad for their purification to remove the stain of their presence. Euripedes in his play Aclestis emphasizes this understood distinction in the domain of Apollon by his confrontation with impartial Thanatos (a distinction between the god which turns time into maturity and to the appropriate time of their death for when they are ripe for it as a god of the forces of nature that include time but also storms and ravages that consequently may take human life due to their fury, and the god who is death itself and is impartial fulfilling his duty to cut down life whenever he is sent to do so regardless of the means of the death). Here Apollon laments against the cruelty of life taken before its time is ripe. In some ways we can see Apollon as a god preserving civilization as an kindness to give humanity the fullest of time to age and die of the most natural causes rather than quickly slain by hostile environments within nature and predators.

Given this his role thus is with organic natural destruction that is a product of nature only it is reasonable that he would not bear a fearsome form as say Typhon does (it is a curiosity too, one that has been remarked by at least one academic at the closeness of the names of Typhon and Python/Pythios but usually with the regard that the myth of Zeus and Typhon was meant to parallel that of Apollon and Python. Nevermind that the whirling wind of Typhon bears links to Apollons similar role as a god of wind storms. The biggest difference however is that Typhon is entirely represented as a malevolent being of fearsome visage (despite being the offspring of Hera). It may be a distinction between Apollon as a god of organic and natural destruction and Typhon as being of wholesale destruction without compassion or pity? I have remarked in the comments of my previous posts that there are some strange mythic things occurring with Typhon and his relationship with Delphyne in myth (who resembles Echidnae in many instances in her form) and the odd line up with Delphic myth and the Homeric Hymn to the Pythian Apollon. If Apollon slew her when he was days old and yet he is said to have fled with Typhon emerging as a power with the other gods, to what purpose would Delphyne have been one to hide the sinews of Zeus and why would Hermes have retrieved them with Cadmus when it would be more logical that as a local daemon following Apollon’s rule at Delphi that Apollon would have had potential authority to retrieve them but is not present. It makes some odd things going on in the literary body regarding Delphyne and Apollon, and what possible relationship he may or may not have had with Typhon, especially with Apollon’s later alignment with the sun and it being mentioned to me that Typhon was too associated with the sun. Yet all the same the distinction that appears to be present between Apollon and Typhon as destructive beings is one that is controlled by the confines of nature and one that is absolutely uncontrolled devastation.

In this respect Apollon, unlike Typhon, does not appear in a form that is fearful and monstrous. He would be the exact opposite of such a form, and as such his kindness could be seen as the kindness that death brings to end suffering, and that decay brings to release souls into the next world as well as make fertile grounds for new life, and the harvest of flesh that humans slaughter even as they take too the harvest of grains. He cuts down all things at their ripeness. Yet it is to natural and benevolent purpose, rather than unkindness or any concept of evil. That is not to say that he was not understood as harsh. Organic destruction is harsh, and cannot be bargained with or changed. You cannot stop a storm from breaking, or water from breaking down stone and thus releasing important minerals even as it corrodes the land. Myth reveals this by speaking of the one time he tried to halt death for his favorite, king Cadmus which called of heroic means and thereafter divination of Aclestis by her part in bravery and Herakles for bringing her back from the gates of the underworld. Yet otherwise we do not see Apollon acting against the means of his own natural law, and one particular translation of Aclestis I had even had Thanatos translated (perhaps erroneously but still an interesting translation for these purposes) of Apollon violating his law. Regardless, the grievance of Thanatos for the interference of Apollon tells us a lot about what is expected of Apollon functioning within his domain. Same could be said in regards to the hostility of the Erinyes against Apollon in the Oresteia as a god who does not condone murder and yet directed murder and protected the murderer. Even though in myth these serve very important illustrations for other spiritual things going on that often involves apotheosis, it also highlights by example of what is abnormal by remarking upon it in the most extreme terms of hostility and grievance of that which was not considered part of Apollon’s function or nature.

In this case I cannot see Apollon as being represented with any other visage than expression of kindness or thoughtfulness. Even with his bow flexed he is often with a relaxed countenance and pleasant expression rather than appearing to be in any way moved by anger or aggression. His entire being is of benevolence, as is appropriate for a god of the passage of time in the harmonic movement of all celestial bodies and god of organic natural destruction. For he does not destroy life out of hatred or anger, or even in opposition to life for which he safeguards himself by withholding his destructive forces. In this respect I do not think he can be represented any other way except with expressions of serenity and kindness without moving off target. This is not to say that Apollon doesn’t anger and can’t be violent against transgression of natural/divine law. He is as much a protector of these laws as he rules a domain within it. Even in the instance of the murder of Clytemnestra we do not find him openly dispute that murder of kin is against nature and as such in punishable, rather arguing where the line has be drawn for accurate punishment as he also demonstrates that murder of mated/wedded pairs is also against nature.   As a protector of these laws and as a protector god in general can be very fierce, but it is not what I would consider his primary state of being when it comes to destruction as it is not foremost an act of punishment but rather nature.

Happy Karneia!

I have been really amiss this year with blogging about festivals…usually because I forget to write something before hand or directly after and after a few days I decide not to bother with it. But as Karneia is one of my favorite festivals of the year I have been watching the fullmoon approach with a sense of excitement, especially as the weather has been cooling down and autumn starting to turn its way round into the pattern of the year’s dance. Today was perhaps the first really autumn day weather-wise. The sky was crystal blue and the sun shining down, and yet there was a definite nip in the air, and a smell in the air of plant life ripening and breaking down into decay. Autumn always has a rich smell to it, and so the beginning of this wonderful smell always delight my nose.

Even though Karneia was celebrated over several consecutive days, as it culminated on the fullmoon that is when I celebrate it as a solitary worshipper. So for those who are planning on celebrating, it is coming tomorrow after sun down! This actual is great timing for my household since we will be spending the afternoon at the state fair, where there will be goats, and sheep, and cattle, as well as giant Alaskan cabbages and pumpkins (not to mention the funnel cakes, cotton candy and other tasty fair foods to gorge oneself with). It takes a feast of the beginning of autumn to an entirely different level this year, one that exemplifies the beginning of the season for my household just as the Karneia, with its harvest of immature grapes and special-raised rams, marked the beginning of its own particular harvest. And while I will be honoring the plentitude of gifts that Apollon brings by staying the foul weather and in a year that spends so much time encased in ice and snow, recedes the temperamental weather just long enough to bring new life to the landscape however briefly, I will also be honoring Dionysos of this festival time, who laughs and dances with the Satyrs among the whirling Doric maidens, and Apollon is honored with the Shepherd’s cloak as flowers are poured into his boat in offering.

I actually rather wish  I had some basket making stuff this year. I have woven a basket in years but I would love to make a special Karneia basket with a wide bottom that can be worn on the head in festive dancing for the gods before Apollon Karneios and in the company of Dionysos as those afore-mentioned dancing maidens….filled with those sweet things of autumn harvest. Whereas it is likely that these baskets, if they contained anything, would have held the tender grapes of the harvest, as we don’t have grapes this far north and it represents the initial harvests in general it would be more appropriate to have an assortment of things of that nature to have up here….that and the horn of a ram I think (considering that Zeus comes before Dionysos in this particular role and is himself the ram, and so was perhaps similarly honored, and Apollon honored as the shepherd). Maybe next year if I think about it far enough ahead of time rather than last minute…..especially since I would have to order basket making supplies.

Still I am looking forward to the high celebration that Karneia will present this year as it is occurring late enough in the year this time to coincide with local festivities. It is certain to make the occasion a grand time and one which can be happily followed by offerings to Apollon Karneios and to Dionysos. So to all who are celebrating….a very happy and blessed Karneia to you!

Further Dialogue on Cassandra

In my previous post “Set Aside for the Gods” I briefly touched on the figure of Cassandra. After some consideration I decided that I needed to address more time to the discussion of Cassandra as she is such a unique figure in Apollon’s mythology, and one around whom there have circulated some anti-Apollon feeling in regards to her punishment and some cheering of Cassandra as a feminist self ascertaining figure. In other words, many who strongly dislike Apollon for his rape myths (please see my above linked post for further discussion on that if you haven’t read it because I won’t be reiterating in this  post) I have already showed previously some argument against how the “rape myth” of Cassandra is really a feminist issue, and is actually a political issue about personalized illicit relationship in myth (recalling if you will that any case of a relationship that wasn’t sanctioned by the family would have fallen into the rape camp, regardless of consent. I am reiterating that here since I did not in my previous post) versus sanctioned appointed attachment to a god as a priestess/official bride of a god.

The first thing that is notable about Cassandra is that her myth is comparatively late. In fact we see no mention of her in the Iliad, although a daughter of Priam is discussed but as engaged to a hero. I have yet to find any mention of the myth of Cassandra that pre-dates the work of Aeschylus in his first play of the Oresteia triology, “Agamemnon”. Here is where we actually get our full introduction to Cassandra (although she also makes an appearance in the later tragedy of the Trojan Women by Euripedes) and that her story unfolds in the framework of another story, her curse by Apollon. However in the context of this play I think a certain frame of mind must be kept when reading through it. One is that Aeschylus had a tendency to introduce mystic elements into his writing (being a member of a Eleusinian priestly family, wherein the idea of certain associations by benefit of lineage would have been strong asserted while he was growing up, as well as the experiential personal versus the official) and also that in the context of the Oresteia we are not only dealing with matters of lineage, or rather the curse of lineage that has been handed down to Orestes as one that has plagued the house of Atreus), but also a conversation on what is lawful.

It is only within the context of these matters that the whole scene of Cassandra’s appearance makes any sense at all, as a maiden who rebuked her expected obligations, her social contract, and instead of being a priestess/bride of the god was reduced to having no house at all (not a coincidence that she would have been designated the daughter of fallen house in this context) and the benefit of family or lineage, or even social status. Her existence was a lover or concubine of the god, who was regular seized by him by what she allotted for herself. The rages she has towards the god is really of no different character than those rages we see the lovers of the gods hurling. Certainly we see Creousa rage at Apollon at Delphi for her lot. I would consider these commentary of the social helplessness. Without protection of family or one of few social privileges that an unmarried woman of good breeding could acquire as serving as a temple priestess, a woman was without anything. Euripedes plays often address to this sort of helpless of women which we see in Ion, and the unfairness of their lot in society.

When I first considered plans for introducing an oracle card for Apollon with the image of Cassandra I wanted to play strongly on this hidden away, internally burning, segregated image of Cassandra. Not as hubric villainess, but rather I see clearer now a lover of the god, like so many mythic, who  are segregated and cast off from the norm of society and peanlized for their illicit affair with the god by society. The curse of Apollon that none would believe her prophecies becomes more of a statement that none would hold any authority in her due to her chosen situation that she chose the illicit ecstatic relationship with the god rather than the pure  rote existence of a priestess. Euripedes really fleshes out this ecstatic relationship in Trojn Women where we hear of Cassandra running about wildly, engaged in things that she could see and experience alone. She is uncontrolled by system or regulated official bondage which would offer social protections and a highly controlled and ritualized life. She traded one boon for the other. But of course she would curse the god for her choice, as men often do, for the ills that have fallen to her even as she opens herself and embraces the presence of Apollon, her sole comfort against the horror she sees unfolding before her.

In many ways Aeschylus could have been demanding attention from the crowd regarding the nature of the mysteries that lies outside of social norm and regulations, and justice which lay outside of what is recognized as right and lawful, to which ultimately heritage and family mean little outside of legal-societal nicities. Speaking of the validity of something that could have been seen as potentially chaotic despite the highly ritualized proceedings of the mystery program performed before the initiates. The mysteries thrive and grow off of the personal contact with the gods, the way is but shown by the priests. The foreshadowing of Cassandra’s presence and speech serves a very profound role as brief as it is, and one that will capture the imagination of poets to come.

In many ways Cassandra is the voice of godspouses, and those who embrace the love of their gods, as she is the one who looses all that she has known before, is ridiculed as mad, thrown aside, and is without apparent value within her social-religious network as she is not there in her existence for service to others. Yet she still spreads what gifts she may. Cassandra is her own kind of heroine, but not in the way anti-Apollon dialogue would have us think.

The Breath of Boreas

It is getting colder (but hey this IS Alaska after all), noticeably so. The breath of winter is draping everything in a hard frost, which makes that six am puppy walk a bit biting. Thank goodness that the breed of puppy I have is half Akita so she has that thick double coat to keep her warm. They sing songs about Jack Frost nipping at your nose, if that is so then Jack Frost has to be adopted, or unofficially claimed, son of Boreas. Or just Boreas reimagined. For the kingdom of Boreas is one of ice and snow and cold blowing winds (he is after all a wind). He is the very substance of the winter air rather than the season of winter. He flies down, winged, from his high snow-encrusted mountains, his breath all around us in the air, biting at whatever skin is exposed to him. The dew in the air is crystalized by him for which the frost paints patterns on all things and by his breath the rain falling from the sky turns to snow that coats the earth of the northern regions in a thick insulated blanket to protect it from his bitter cold breath. And the trees stand as silent headstones, sleeping throughout the winter.

Apollon is said to venture far beyond the kingdom of Boreas. But why Boreas in particular? Apollon has a noticeable connection to the winds, not only as a god of winds himself, harnessing them for destructive and beneficial ends, but also personal mythic relationships with two of the winds. One is Zephyr in the spring in the myth of Hyakinthos, and in the myth of Hyperboreia we have Boreas. The connections with Zephyr seem more obvious because Zephyr is highly active in Apollon’s season, with the blessing of verdant growth during the mild first half that nourishes young plants. Even in the tale of Hyperboreia we can come back to Zephyr because Apollon’s garden seems to be described as one continually blessed by Zephyr with the mildness of his weather as an eternal spring. And yet to approach this place you have to go beyond the  kingdom of Boreas. Of course Pindar reminds us that it would be in vain to seek out this land, for it does not exist here where we may find it. It is exists beyond the gates of winter, the gates guarded by the griffins. A few days ago I approached this subject in my post on the Purifications and Expiations of Winter, but I wanted to continue more here in my thoughts on Boreas and his relationship with Apollon in particular.

As winter in some areas would be concerned with the sowing of seeds for the next year’s grain and crops, even in more mild climes there is naught much more besides some hardy small flowers that bloom and delight. Many of them, such as pansies, are edible however. But as the rainy season (whether that be actual rain showers or snow showers of the northern regions) it tends to be the indoor season. It is a sleepy and restful season compared to other times of the year, and becomes so the further into winter you go. Winter in many ways been compared to death, not only for being the season in which Persephone reigns in the underworld, but also for the sparse barren nature of the season. Winter is intimately connected to death. So we find Boreas and his kingdom associated with the boundaries of death in a seasonal sense but perhaps also in a symbolic sense as a boundary to the Underworld. One that may be transversed by gods directly into the land of blessed, but not accessible to mortals. It is through this gate that Leto came, and it is through this gate that Apollon travels to his sacred garden. Perhaps it can be seen as his special VIP entrance directly to his private corner of the land of the Blessed where those cherished by him he has directly had crossed in their apotheosis. The garden which was his bridal chamber of Kyrene before it was imagined in Libya.

Even as Apollon himself is a gatekeeper god, Boreas would seem to act as such for Apollon, and the griffins too with which Apollon has been pictured, those gold loving creatures who likely find bliss in the pure gold radiance of Apollon as he comes near. Griffins which are  horse killers, that would seek to attack the soul chariots of mortals. These griffins would be nearly as fearsome as Cerebus himself but far less welcoming to any souls less they be driven in Apollon’s own swan chariot. And if these alone are not dissuasive then Boreas himself is, his bitter breath driving all away, to return to the comfort of hearths, or in the case of souls, to more welcome routes.

The sacredness of the north is also affirmed by the Etruscans who were widely respected in the ancient world for their augury. Etruscans placed the highest of the gods to dwell in the northern quadrant of the heavens. For any to seek to attain this kingdom would have been probably seen as hubric as Bellerophon’s attempt to climb Olympos on the back of winged Pegasus. And what happened to him? A hornet stung the stallion, throwing the rider to his death. Beware those who attempt the roads of the gods. This is no less true, by far, than with Apollon in his northern route. This distinguishes him from Persephone and Dionysos whose routes are clear markers for the way for human souls. Few, does Apollon take upon his sacred northern road. King Croesus being one example whom Apollon took up for his devotion according to Pindar. And Pindar too I would imagine, and all the great poets. Those whom he loves. So I greet the breath of Boreas as reminder of this holy route, for the part he plays.

Preparing for Adonia

I often forget to write about rituals that come up, but I haven’t forgotten this time to mention it!  So at the moment I am getting ready to celebrate Adonia,which I tend to celebrate on Easter. I know that others hold their celebrations for Adonia later in the year, closer to summer, but I know others who also celebrate on or around Easter, and the fact that I celebrate Hyakinthia at the end of spring makes it rather convenient for my calendar in any case 🙂 There of course seems to be a fair similarity to my mind between the myths of Adonis and that of Hyakinthos. You have competition between two gods (in the myth of Adonis you have him spending part of his year with Persephone, and the other part with Aphrodite, likewise you have Apollon and Zephyrus desiring Hyakinthos), and some seasonal correspondance. However, this does not mean that I feel it is appropriate to lump them together as being representative of the same kind of thing going on in the same time of the year. Rather, the details of the myths reveal certain things about when it may be best to celebrate it, or perhaps even when they were celebrated if one dares to stretch that far.

First, Adonis strikes me as being specifically about spring due to the gods which are involved. Particularly the time between the tail end of summer and in mid-spring, long before the coming of summer. In the myth this seems to highlighted by the fact that he is being torn between Persephone (with whom he spends time while she is in Hades’ court) and Aphrodite. It is suggested to me that when, or perhaps shortly before, Persephone returns to her mother Adonis would have been released to Aphrodite’s company. As such you have Adonis transitioning between winter and spring most specifically, and then destroyed in the flower of his youth by Ares or Apollon, one out of jealousy and the other for retribution, via a boar depending on which version you prefer. Pigs being an animal it seems that have some special connection with the spring and autumn seasons in which you have transitions into and out from winter. It seems that the Calydonian boar is a perfect example of the autumnal transition as the harvest is completed and the boar has been sent out to revenge Artemis upon the people. Turning this over now we have the boar which slays Adonis, which, if you have read my post on boars and pigs, has an especial connection with Artemis as per the location of where he was killed and how this same area once spawned the Calydonian boar too. Therefore Adonis’ boar is the spring equivalent which is also threshing life, though rather than mature life ready for harvest, this boar is destroying the flower that will never, thereafter, fruit. It, therefore, is not entirely logical either to place his festival at the end of spring or anywhere towards summer in which the maturation cycle takes place. Adonis is forever captured as a tender youth hunting in the woods. He is the very imagery of youth prior to taking up the mantle of manhood, and therefore a good reason why you have imagery of the company of Hippolytus hunting with Artemis as the occupation of boys.

This is quite different in character from the Hyakinthia, wherein Hyakinthos is believed to have been portrayed as a deified being as a bearded male as his deification may very well been on the mark the period of transition from youth with which Apollon is particularly concerned. Even the contest over Hyakinthos has a different character from that of Adonis. You have Zephyrus, the spring wind, contending with Apollon over the youth’s affections. And then there is Apollon who accidentally slays the boy with his disc, which seems reasonable to represent the greatest disc of his: the sun. Unlike the transition of winter-spring that we particularly see in the case of Adonis, we are seeing spring-summer in the case of Hyakinthos. As such it is reasonable that Hyakinthia is celebrated at the end of spring, and likewise Adonia would have been celebrated prior after the first blush of spring had faded.

What do I mean by the first blush of spring? I, for one, never would have though in my youth that spring had stages that it went through. Alaska has a spring so short that you take a breath and you pretty much miss it. All the soft flare of spring is just barely a glimpse in the year. However when I spent time in warmer climates I saw first hand the blades of the spring flowers poking through the soil in the middle of winter. And when I went over seas to Morocco in January I was quite startled. A place I had visited previously thick with the heavy scent of big summer blossoms and rich colors, in the winter time was like some fairy paradise with feilds of soft green and the tiniest pale flowers dotting the landscape in the valleys as snow accumulated in the mountains. The weather was chilly, and damp, but it was full of a freshness and innocence that I didn’t realize would have been possible in that landscape. Yet the winter flowers of December and January are rapidly replaced with the spring flowers of February and March more or less. And I recall from my gardening lessons at my mothers knee that a good gardener has stuff planted together that will bloom alternating as the months pass so that there is never a flower free spot in the garden. Therefore the first half of spring is dwindling down getting ready to be replaced by the latter part of spring with its more luxuriant flowers than the small enchanting flowers of the first half, as the season progresses.

I have heard mentioned a practice, which many base their modern festivals from what I understand, in which in Egypt I believe, where greens were grown and left to perish under the sun. Now having read above what I have described I am pretty confident that in Egypt, as another North African country, such greenery would be very unlikely to be growing so near summer. In these climates the greenery goes to town during the rainy months of winter, and then the flowers start really showing up in the beginning of spring. Therefore it seems more likely to me that perhaps sometime in the end of winter, if this was indeed a practice, since I don’t recall if there was a citation for it so I won’t make any positive claims about it, it seems that these would have been growing largely in the latter part of winter and into the spring. Then as spring progressed and the days grew hotter, as the mediteranean heats up quickly, the tender plants would have died long before summer even began. This is my take from what I have seen in any case.

Now following this model specifically doesn’t work for my geographic location. If I had started plants in January or the end of December, if they hadn’t died from the cold they wouldn’t be getting ready to die as spring came around. Because of the particulars of this part of the world, they would be getting ready to really get going instead.  For this reason I prefer not to use this agricultural model in my observation of Adonia.However, that said, a northern equivlanet could arguably be made for the season in which mollasses is harvested from maple trees. It is a very brief part of the year in which you wouldn’t know that spring had started for all the snow everywhere, but the trees waking from their slumber let the sap rise and this is tapped by those who are hardy enough to weather the cold to get it. This is perhaps a good distinction in more nothernly places the differences between the first flow of spring compared to the latter part.

The way I celebrate Adonia then is in large part how many celebrate Easter. I cook a ham, perhaps an ironic device considering the boar that did him in, with its sweet glaze that I reserve only for this time of the year. A lot of it is about family, togetherness, and feasting together. Of course this is followed by the solomonities the night before in which sorrow is exhibited for the passing of Adonis. I can imagine some folks can really get into this. I am not so good at it to tell the truth. The Hyakinthia without its overt show of grief is more suited to me than the outpourings for Adonia, but I do my best.

This year I am looking forward to having a statue of Adonis for the occassion. A surprise gift among some other things I get to pick through, it is apparently a fairly valuable little statuette of bronze that is going to make the perfect image. For the first time I will have an image of Adonis for my Adonia! It is just a shame I won’t have my apartment for the occassion so that I can really get into the spirit of things. But, having the Adonia being celebrated around about Easter gives me the oppertunity to enjoy my family for the festival even if I don’t have the oppertunity to do all that I like this year. Therefore, though it will be on a small scale without all the ritual and ceremony that I enjoy, I am thinking it will be a lovely Adonia.


Gender-exclusive gods

This post from Aspis of Ares has inspired me into further thought about this topic. Though I have refrained from commenting on the activities of Pantheacon (largely because I was not there and have no relationship to Dianic Wicca), his post did make me think specifically about gender-exclusive worship practices and to what extent they had relevance in Hellenismos and the worship in the ancient world. As a disclaimer I would like to point out that in my youth I did read some on Dianics, and found it lacking on an assumption that there are historic cults which were gender-exclusive…in particular putting emphasis on one goddess from which the tradition takes its name: Diana, the Roman counterpart of the Hellene goddess Artemis. So it seems that the best place to start is in discussing the assumptions about Hellenic goddesses worshiped in this tradition. This should not be interpreted as an attack on Dianic Wiccans, they after all should feel free to practice as they like, but rather as introduction for addressing the problems with assumptions of male-exclusive gods in the worship of Hellas.

From my reading material on Dianics there are three particular Hellenic goddesses to which the femme-centricism is focused as goddesses associated with some kind of “feminine mysteries” which just doesn’t really exist in the way that seems to be assumed, nor holding any supremacy in relation to the masculine gods: Artemis, Demeter and Persephone. The relationship of Demeter and Persephone appears to be emphasized in Dianic Wicca as the sole purpose of the turn of the seasons, which is in contrast to forms of Wiccan in which the shift of seasons are attributed to the relationship of a masculine and feminine divinity. While there were a very small handful of festivals of Demeter and Persephone that were celebrated only by women, this really is more of an exception rather than the norm and took place during the autumn season. All other festivals were celebrated by initiates irregardless of gender or social status, which makes the cult of Demeter perhaps one of the most inclusive ones in Hellas, as the mysteries were equally available to all Hellenes and peoples who spoke the language. Additionally, unlike Dianic practices which move away from the participation of male gods in the mystery of Demeter such as Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes and Apollon to name a few who were honored at festivals of Demeter such as the Proerosia.

As for Artemis, I can almost understand the confusion about her. With the list of her nymph companions, her association with the legendary Amazons, and her abhorrence of Actaeon seeing her bathing after the hunt, could suggest that the goddess is of the kind which only appreciates the female company and excludes males. However, with the exception of the Brauronia, which was only celebrated by girls, all other coming of age rituals were celebrated for and attended by both boys and girls, and sometimes even exclusively by boys as in the case of the trial at the altar of Artemis Orthia during which the endurance of boys entering adulthood as a soldier was tested by whipping. Likewise Artemis was honored at the birth of girls, and honored by nurses of boys. Aside from the practical cult of Artemis, one also has to take the myth of Hippolytus into consideration: a hunting companion of Artemis who not only was honored via certain cult centers in Greece, but also in the myth of Diana at Nemi, a place to which the revived Hippolytus was believed to have departed and in the local cult was presided over by a priest. This doesn’t sound like a goddess who particularly excludes males and favors women. In fact aside from the process of childbirth, over which she would naturally preside as a goddess of the portal of birth, Artemis has very little to do specifically with women past the age of maturity, and even prior to maturity was equally concerned with the male.That Artemis also took on a slight masculine identity can also be seen in the case in which Artemis, like Aphrodite, has been portrayed as a bearded goddess.

This should be understood as many people like to set up Artemis and her twin Apollon into a dichotomy in which everything feminine is protected by Artemis, and everything masculine by Apollon. Yet with Apollon too we see many many instances in which females take part. The largest distinction seems to be made only shortly after an infants birth (7 days afterward, in which its birth was celebrated after surviving the first week of life) in which garlands of laurel were hung for a boy (or in some case the olive of Athena), and white fillets of wool for Artemis at the birth of a girl, and perhaps at the death of males and females in which we have examples of Apollon slaying males, and Artemis slaying females. But this seems more to be along the lines of gender distinction of the twins themselves, not necessarily of their worshipers, who are otherwise linked with each other, operating in most cases as a whole together, and reflecting each other and working cooperatively. In neither case can we say that either of these exclude the opposite gender, and each possessing very few celebrations or activities which are femme or masculine centric, and not necessarily among the same sex as Apollon had female only gigs like the weaving of his chiton by the women at Chiton for the Hyakinthia (which yes was celebrated by both men and women), and the previously mentioned whipping of boys for Artemis Orthia. Even festivals which seemed to focus on a specific gender weren’t necessarily as exclusive as we think…in which case the Gymnapaidaie of Apollon, while most references focus on the participation of male youths in vigor, athletics and dance, also included dancing girls and is called by as a feast of women.

To a lesser degree there does seem to also be a femme-focus on Dionysos, due largely in part to the presence of the maenads. I have seen them in feminine mystery material compared as part of a feminine mystery that contrasts the Amazons. While it seems to be agreed upon that the first celebrants of Dionysos were female, and that the maenads (the first of which, and the actual original maenads) were his followers, it is also true that in the legendary history of Dionysos that males were not excluded either. For instance, in Euripedes Bacchae shows the king and the seer in full celebration of Bacchus, an activity of which returned their sense of youth, vigor, and general merriness. Likewise men took the part of the satyrs in the Bacchic processions in honor of Dionysos. And certainly the co-mingling of sexes during the Dionysia celebrated at Brauron (yes the same Brauron where the Brauronia was celebrated in honor of Artemis). In point of fact celebrating Dionysos doesn’t particularly work with just one sex in my opinion…it can be done certainly…but it seems to miss some of the features in which Dionysos, who often acts as a bridge between genders, not only as a fairly feminine male god but also in the act of his worship in a society, particularly among the Athenians, in which unmarried women and men spent a large part of their time segregated, is honored. In this manner his worship seems to fall in a similar line with that of Demeter in that it tends to be inclusive by its nature.

In general, I can’t think of a single god or goddess of Hellas whose worship is specifically exclusive. Even Ares, as Pete pointed out, cannot be considered a deity that excludes female worship, with the exception of very particular festivals. In this light I have a difficult time swallowing claims that any of the gods are by their nature gender exclusive…not among the most feminine of goddess nor the most masculine of gods. Therefore those who take up worship of these gods and attempt to modify them into male only or female only cults just isn’t personally agreeable to me, or do I find it particularly healthy. I have seen arguments in which women say that they need male-excluding worship in order to help them heal or to celebrate something particular to their biological function, but the downplay of the male gods (who do have close relationships with the goddesses) and exclusion of males regularly seems to inherently lacking as nature is not focused either way. So this goes the same in my consideration for female-excluding regular worship practices. Of course this is coming from someone who does not consider biological plumbing as something sacred or magical….neither male phalli or female uteri. Such is only sacred as it pertains to gods, and not always actively a part of the worship of every god or goddess either, especially when we consider that many of the Olympian goddess refrained from procreation altogether. In fact I see the honoring of the divine phallus having more to do with the penetration and fertilization of the mortal soul, and the fertilizing of the earth than any trumpeting of the male biological gender specifically. Women who reject “male energy” because of abuses carried out by certain men, as therefore associate the phallus with something negative and domineering, are missing out on something important. In fact there is nothing that can work to healing such abuses than accepting the love of males, especially male gods, that are introduced in a non-sexual manner. And before anyone gets huffy, this is coming from a person who experienced some really unpleasant stuff and found myself fulfilled by Apollon by accepting him during a period of vulnerability. This is perhaps why Dianic Wicca has never appealed to me, that even in my youth as a follower of Artemis.

That is not say that some few celebrations can’t be gender focused, typically set upon social situations of “gender” rather than celebrating biological functions, but the reality is that these were few and far between from what I understand, and not a regular mode of worship. Honoring the gods seems that it is best carried out in regular practice in the spirit of inclusiveness.


(PBP) B is for Boundaries and Birth

Perhaps a significant, and often overlooked, providence of many deities has considerably to do with boundaries. These are differentiated from portals/doorways in that a boundary doesn’t necessarily imply that there is a point of passage, although often there is one for which we can see boundary related gods associated also with gated entrances. Such is certainly true for two well-known boundary gods: Apollon and Hermes whose representations were erected at either side of the courtyard gate. Both of these gods in the domestic worship of the oikos preserve the boundary between the intimate space of the courtyard from the world-at-large. This of course is appropriately paralleled by the providence held by Artemis and Hekate at the portal, the door to enter the house that seems to create two parallel cooperatively functioning boundaries.

In essence the boundaries represent the liminal edges between the worlds, one which all of the above mentioned gods have considerable access to as they pass into (like Hekate and Hermes) or hold position at this edge of the world (like Apollon who is associated with cemeteries in parts of Ionia and Arkadia, and  and Artemis). The mythic relationship between Apollon and Hermes in the Homeric hymns likewise suggests that Apollo may have once been specifically associated with underworld functions that Hermes took over, one in which the sun is believed to have sunk into the underworld (as it sinks into the river of Okeanos which in itself represents this liminal boundary and Apollon’s resting thereon is represented poetically in Hesiod’s Sheild of Herakles by the description of the swans resting on the river Okeanos). By stealing his cattle when the god is conspicuously absent, he is then given in exchange the cadaceus, his serpent entwined wand, and a bullwhip from Apollon in exchange for the musical inventions of Hermes (the kithara and the pipe). Nevertheless Hermes retains his associations with the instrument which he can similarly gift upon others, just as Apollon doesn’t cede his relationship with the boundaries with the netherworld….a relationship which is stressed in his cemetery cult in which he provides and protects the soul for 30 days as it is attached to the grave until which point Hermes escorts it.

Therefore we see Apollon as the god at the boundary (so named Apollon Horios) to which the soul passes from living and death, and Hermes who escorts the soul into the next phase of life. In similar manner we may see that the worship of Apollon and Hermes as the front gates represents the god at the boundary between the road and the home (for which he is called upon as Apollon Agyieus…Apollon of the Roads and turns away evil to preserve the harmony of the house), and Hermes (who as a god of boundaries is generally viewed as a god who protects travelers as travelers frequently cross land boundaries, and in a spiritual sense in which Hermes is associated with the boundaries over which the dead cross) is viewed as the god which draws good things into the home, and likewise averting ill things from entering. Apollon’s association with the demos, cultural norms and practices (both mundane and religious), sacred law (as we particularly see as the guardian of the regulations of the Olympic Games as Apollon Thermios together with Artemis Thermia) etc which crosses from the public sphere into the household. In a more indirect manner it can also be associated with Apollon’s oracular station as well in which the god transmits divine knowledge across the boundaries between the divine and mortal planes of existence.

In contrast Artemis and Hekate at the portal are more strongly associated with the opposite function of passage into life…inclusion into the oikos perhaps, which includes adoption, guest-host relationships, and the more immediate entries via birth for which both goddesses are strongly associated with birth as a portal goddess. If Apollon and Hermes make the exchange of the passage from one existence into a new state via death and destruction, then we adequately see a paralleled reflection represented in the placement of torch bearing goddesses of birth, and in at least one case Artemis (as a lamp and dragon bearing Artemis Hegemone at Arkadia. This Artemis who leads, which in its relation to a cult center of Demeter in Arkadia not unlike that of Artemis at Eleusis, can suggest one who leads into a passage of a new beginning for which the both the torch, with which both she and Hekate are most popularly depicted, bears much the same symbolism as the more domestic light via the lamp.

However this is not suggest a polarity either in which Hermes and Apollon represent one kind of passage, and Artemis and Hekate another, for we understand that Hermes likewise leads Persephone out from the underworld (as is associated with escorting the dead during the Anthesteria) and Apollon is associated with the new birth of the month. So it is not singularly destruction of the negative things that may try to enter the oikos at the gates to provide passage for the good things that benefit the oikos, but also the transformation that occurs (both destructive and genitive) that occurs as the gate door swings both ways as visitors and family members pass to and fro.

Such is also true of Hekate and Artemis that whereas the portal represents birth and the productive life of the oikos, are also associated with the departure from the oikos. This includes the entrance into the unknown/wilderness as members physically depart the home to engage in the world outside of the household, and as the passage of life via death in which the oikos is reduced by the exit of a member. This is natural as Artemis represents the liminal world, the woodlands beyond the city boundary…a huntress and destroying goddess. Meanwhile Hekate passes, like Hermes, into the netherworld and is often associated with the hidden knowledges for this.

Therefore there is no direct polarity between the boundary of Artemis and Hekate at the portal, and that of Apollon and Hermes at the gate, but rather they are fluid and cooperative with each other. There is the fact that we have more protective deities at the outer entrance at the boundary and gate of the oikos courtyard, and goddess associated with nurturing the young as Kourotrophoi at the portal of the oikos and the intimate life of the family…this seems to be the biggest difference for which they are assigned very specific designations of worship in the oikos.What is interesting though is how many rivers are assigned to gods associated with boundaries and the liminal zone. This is particularly true with Artemis and Apollon, both of whom have a significant number of epithets that refer to rivers (which act as natural boundaries both in geography but also as the children of Okeanos and Tethys who as stated above is associated with the liminal boundary between worlds) associated with their worship and mythos (example Apollon Tilphossios, god of the spring Tilphossa, Apollon Ismenios of the river Ismenos, and Artemis Alphiaiai of the river Alpheios). Such a strong symbolic association with boundaries and the liminal zone may have something to do with the strong associations of Leto with motherhood/childbirth and in many places in Ionia, particularly Lycia, with the underworld. I do think it is curious that Leto, who bears such strong associations, is comparable almost with the myth of Asteria (her sister and mother of Hekate) who, upon plummeting into the sea in order to evade Zeus became as an unanchored island which has been described at times as wandering beneath the surface of the sea. Therefore the rising of Delos (the transformed Asteria) in order to provide a place of birth for Apollon and Artemis is provided via the transference of the body from the unknown into the sunlit living world. Her dwelling beneath the waves is quite similar to Hekate’s position at the mouth of caves which are the entrance/doorway into the next world. Therefore it seems that in the case of Apollon, Artemis and Hekate there is a strong hereditary relationship with boundaries and portals.

Of course this prooves an issue for modern worshipers since not everyone possesses a front gate. The closest it seems to get is among those families who have an entirely enclosed yard through which one would have to enter the gate in order to reach the front door. Otherwise the boundaries of the oikos are consolidated at the front door for which worshipers may be presented with no other option but to combine the designations of boundary/gate together with that of the portal and worship all of the above gods together in a fashion…though possibly seperated by different shelves if possible. But it also means that it limits the options of where at the door things can be placed since typically as front doors swing inward there is relatively little room to place shrines at either side inside the doorway, and most prefer not to have anything for Apollon and Hermes outside the doorway because of concerns of vandalism or theft. This requires some creativity. This is also the most regular form of worship for the gods in relation to the boundary as, compared to daily comings and goings—for which offerings are given to these gods, births and deaths are less regular occurrences within the oikos and far less worship will involve such direct manifestations of the role of the gods associated with the boundaries, aside from specific festivals that honor such roles.


A is for Alcohol: wine and mead

Though I am getting started late, after much consideration, I have decided to jump in and do this “pagan blog project” thingy…not in any official sense but because hey why would be a fun way to organize my thoughts to follow through in this pattern. So here we go.

A is for alcohol…A for Apollon was my first instincual choice but I talk about him *constantly* so I decided that to make it a bit more work on my part I should go in another direction. So then A is for alcohol.

I have spoken before of the symbolism of the wine when it comes to Dionysos…in fact I have spoken of it *at length* so I will just gloss over that part when I come to it. Needless to say though that alcohol in various forms has played a significant part in European and Mediterannean religions in general. While wine tends to have a history of superior sacredness is most of the ancient Mediterannean it doesn’t detract from the fact that spirituality through alcohol has also been anciently linked in other parts of Europe to mead brewed from fermented honey…a practice that has also been carried out in Hellas though not possessing the distinguished place that wine has…perhaps attributed to its dark bloodish hue as the “purple wine” which associates it with the highest of divinities. That said, I do think though that when we have the contest of Aristaios against Dionysos in regarding libations, we can see a history of mead being a pleasurable offering to the Olympians because how else is honey to be libated in its raw state. Raw honey is fairly thick and while tasty is not a very convenient substance of libation. I would suggest that considering that there is a mead that is common to Hellas it more likely that this offering of Aristaios, the son of Apollon, would have been the fermented form of honey…mead. This would place it in an even contest squaring off against the offerings of wine from Dionysos. This would also make sense agriculturally in which honey, as both a wild and domestic product, probably has a more ancient providence as an available resource than the cultivated vineyard. And both substances are viably connected with spirituality and the soul in both their fermented and raw forms. This then gives us the *golden* honey of the bees (golden being in itself a signifier of divinity for which it was not uncommon to gild with gold images of the gods) which is fermented into an equally golden..though sometimes reddish, elixir as mead, and the grape vine and cluster that produces the wine. There can have even be said to be some mild connection between them as Dionysos has been associated in icons as a kind of bee himself. But this makes a kind of sense too when we consider some mythic sources that have a daughter of Aristiaos, a girl named Melissa (the bee) as a nursemaid for Dionysos. In such a manner Dionysos was suckled on the substance of the bees as if he were an immature bee himself. For which we can also take another leap and say that the first alcohol substance that Dionysos drank from was the mead of Aristaios.

The domestication of bees is the art directly attributed to Aristaios, the shepherd of the bees…specifically the bees of the Muses. He plays a role towards the bees like that which Apollon plays for the muses, he is essentially the ringleader. That he is called the shepherd Apollon we can infer that his providence as shepherd is related to the domain and function of Apollon. Essentially Apollon is the leader of the muses, the leader of the bees (for which it makes sense that his own oracle is also refered to as a bee) and Aristaios is the domesticator of these in relation to his father’s domain, in which he makes the gifts of the bees more accessible to human kind by the art of horticulture. If the bees are related to muses, and the arts of the muses specifically, we can the bees as more specifically the children of the titanide Mnemosyne. By which the practice of the thyiade nymphs from whom bee divination was said to have been is specifically tapping into the well of Menmosyne…the memory (arguably nonlinear) of the world. As such it can be said that mead is a fermintation that is directly associated with the divine essence earth.

That the gods, while delighting in both, found the wine of Dionysos more pleasing seems to be a matter of very slight division when we compare the two substances. After all both are alcoholic substances which, to remind you from my previous posts, serve to elevate through a sense of euphoria in simulation of the blessedness of divine existance and allows a kind of temporary connection with the gods in moderation. So we must then divide among the few differences.
Source: Wine and mead have to very different sources. Mead is by and large an animal byproduct because it comes from honey. Though this originates in nectar gathered from flowers, much of it also comes from the internal processing of this nectar by the bees to make it into a food source for their hives. It therefore requires an “animal” intermediary between the raw substance and the honey which can be fermented. Of course there ways to make artificial honey from boiling flowers with sugar but when compared to honey it is quite inferior in color and flavor….and I don’t really think it can truly be called honey in any case. Some might say though that this extra processing can be what makes mead a more valuable substance.
Wine on the other hand is a vineyard plant, and the fermintation comes directly from the grapes. It cannot be comparable with beer, which is grown from grains, because this is a substance which comes directly from the fruit of the plant and part of a painstaking cycle in which flowers need to be fertilized (the marriage of essences) in order for the blossom to bear the necessary fruits. This process can of course be considered very reflective of the initiations preserved in pompeii in which the initiate is addressed as a kind of bride. The fruit, the summation of the flower’s being, can only be accomplishd via the marriage of essences, just as life takes a husband and wife to propigate a new life…however we cannot consider the fruit a new distinct life from the flower which makes it symbolism all the more poignant. It is a rebirth of the self. Therefore wine itself is the transformation (via fermentation) of this higher self. The wine itself then has an arguably great symbolic presence when it is offered, as it may be more aligned with the offering of one’s soul and being.

Honey (and mead) has a very mellow and beautiful golden color which seems to connect by that virtue to some identity of the divine. As such it can be representative of the divine world in general. This possibly explains why honey is such a popular offering to chthonic deities, nymphs etc.
Wine is red/purplish in hue (taking the white wines etc out of consideration for a moment) and in its character represents blood, but also can represent royalty as this reddish-purple hue was a popular fabric die for those of royal lineage. Therefore we can say that wine is “royal blood”. It is the highest essence of the greatest gods (Zeus specifically via Dionysos). As such its color can also be representative of the essence of life (in all its various forms) in general.

In the end the symbolic merit of the wine prooves superior to that of the honey/mead, and Dionysos wins over Aristaios. But in response Aristaios became the first to mix the two substances. This can take the form of honeyed-wine (in which honey is mixed with wine) or honey wine (in which, from my understanding, honey is part of the fermentation process). It is for this reason that I prefer to give honeyed wine as an offering to Apollon on his most sacred of days, particularly the mulled wine (which is made with honey and various spices) for Apollon Noumenios and the household gods on the Noumenia.

However, regardless of what offering is given, it is clear that alcohol plays a significant role, but this doesn’t excuse excessiveness either. By knowing that alcohol is in part a holy susbtance it charges us to use it responsibily too and place it back in the realm of the sacred. The gods loved symposiums, and so I don’t look down at sharing a social drink with friends at a gathering or anything of the kind, but I do feel that this is different than the casual drinking just for the sake of drinking, and doing this excessively, and calling that spirituality.

Of fish, dolphins and frogs

Once again please bear with me since I am still doing this via phone.

Since I have been speaking recently of liminal animals, particularly that of goats, dogs, and wolves in recent posts, I thought I might take a moment to address another that is perhaps often overlooked…and that is the aquatic animals and their relationship to various gods. Poseidon as the god of the sea (and thus also the space in between the extremes) is most notable for being associated with such creatures in everything from fish and dolphins to mythological creatures such as seamonsters and hippocampi (seahorses in the most literal sense). These creatures are as such associated with the boundary between the world of men, and the unknown world as expressed by the unfathomable depths to which men did not (and still to some degree do not) have access. As such we see also dolphins carrying Proserpina in Italian art depicting her return, and we have images of Aphrodite riding upon a dolphin as she emerges in her birth from the sea. And we have Apollon who takes the form of a dolphin as a guide and is honored as Delphinus in respect to his dolphin form that he takes. This similar idea can also be expressed by the fish oracle of Apollon at Patara, Lycia. The presence of the dolphin in the cult of Apollon is fairly well known, and it is unsurprising that a god connected as he is with ports/harbors, mariners etc would not have strong aquatic associations in the means of sacred animals and even oracular forms if the sea is the liminal point between between worlds and Apollon is a god which traverses them both easily and illuminates the unknown. And then we have goddesses we take finned forms themselves such as Aphrodite Syria, and Artemis Eurynome of Arkadia.

Though Pausanias expresses some doubt as to how Artemis Eurynome can actually be Artemis, he does remark that the people of the area are quite firm in their belief that this is Artemis, and thus we can see that the name Eurynome is an epithet of her in this capacity which assigns attributes of the sea goddess specifically to this inland cult of Artemis where two important streams met. Euyrnome is by and large associated with the parallel functions of Artemis at the aquatic level over “pastures” as well as functions as a kind of divine nurse wherein Eurynome literally receives and nurses the infant Hephaistos after he was flung from Olympos. This daughter of Okeanos may compare in some fashion with the version of myths in which Artemis is attributed to parentage of Demeter and Poseidon…which though most strongly attested at Eleusis, is also evident symbolically by the close association with the horse that the goddess enjoys through the Pelponnese and her close association with particular rivers and springs in myth can reflect this alternative parenthood that clearly serves a very strong symbolic purpose. Thus it is of little surprise that she is thus honored at the meeting place of the Lymax (After-Birth…the source of which is the place where the infant Zeus was delivered and Rhea was bathed after his birth) where it falls into the Neda. Though Artemis is considered mythically a daughter of Zeus, we often see Artemis and Apollon, and Athena too in some myths, attributed to pre-Olympian manifestations…thus Apollon as a father of the Korybantes who cared for the infant Zeus it is not difficult imagine Artemis, the divine nurse, associated with the river related to the birth of Zeus. Especially as the Okeanid Neda was specifically one of the nymphs who cared for Zeus, which likely made this spot where the worship of Artemis Eurynome carried related to this connection of receiving and “nursing” the god. Kallimachus specifies how Neda secreted the infant Zeus away  to place him in the care of the Melian nymphs and the Kuretes that would raise him. Overall this place is then associated with two things…the delivering of Zeus after his birth and the purification of the mother by bathing.

Lewis Farnell in his The Cults of the Greek States talks briefly of the cult of Artemis under the Lacodaemons which honored Artemis as the nurse of the hyacinth, for which we may also see a parallel worship with the festival celebrated by the nurses of boys in secrecy in the same land every year…which again connects with a liquid, fluid nature of the goddess which nurtures even as she is the goddess of the wooded pasturelands. Likewise as a goddess of mariners she bringer of all to haven, or port (something which is specifically attributed to Apollon as god of ports) even as she may hunt her prey through her woods…she brings all to their destination. Therefore there is likely some very important association with the destination of these two meeting of springs that is being here honored which is connecting with the fluid nursing character of Artemis. And yet a nodd to her woodland aspect as cypresses planted all about the temple to Artemis Eurynome, the mermaid formed Artemis wrapped in golden chains. Such similar associations between the woodland and the aquatic realm is the device of the net which is used to secure both prey hunted on land, and fish hunted from the depths of the sea for which have other associations of Artemis with epithets of Dictynna and Britomartis.

And that finally brings us to the frogs. Aristophanes has a chorus of frogs, caretakers of the reeds, that praise in their song the following liminal gods: Artemis, Pan, Apollon and Dionysos from where they dwell in the underworld (perhaps another association of frogs inhabiting lower levels of water that may be associated with the underworld). These are the same animals which are renowned in myth in which Leto, in her travel through Lycia, transformed shepherds (or in some version villagers man, woman and child all) into frogs for rejecting her attempts to bathe her children there in their waters. This bathng of Artemis and Apollon by this myth is of particular importance, and we see it too in that Xanthus, in whose water Apollon is bathed is held in high esteem and all of Patara is honored. As Leto also has strong associations with the underworld in Lycia and Asia minor it carries a strong portal symbolism too between life and death, which brings to mind the Egyptian frog goddess Heqet who presided over births. Likewise the symbolism of the bathing carries further in which we see both Artemis and Athena exacting punishment for being spied upon in their baths, for in which case for Artemis is one of her most commonly known myths that it resulted in the death of Actaeon whereas for Athena the blinded violator was given the gift of prophecy. Therefore we see the watery realm symbolism further associated with this idea of foresight (for which we can understand Poseidon’s oracles as well), purification (on the part of the goddesses in myth), and transformation as typically the water is what is used as the vehicle of delivering the punishment. Frogs are very important to this transformative nature of water because it is in the water that this transformation occurs that allows them to go from living solely beneath the water to be able to emerge from it. This naturally brings to mind Plato’s Phaedo I believe it was in which our heavens are described as being like the sea of a higher world (my paraphrase here)…and therefore this transedence can also imply emerging into a higher state too. Which may explain in part the importance of the frog symbolism that it was carved on the doors of Delphi according to Plutarch.

Thus whether it is possessing a fish’s tail, or taking the form of a marine creature, as symbolically related to specific aquatic animals, it delivers a wealth of meaning potential within it.