Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Orthodox Incense

I got my first order of incense from today, and so far I'm really impressed.  They supply incense to Eastern Orthodox people for home religious use (to offer at ikons), mostly Greek and Russian, it looks like.   Like all Orthodox Church incense, these all have a base of frankincense, with other plant materials mixed in.  They are small pellets, about the size of a pea, covered in white chalky clay (to keep them from sticking together).  You drop the pellets onto charcoal.  Each pellet burns for about 10 minutes, producing a moderate amount of smoke.  More pellets=more smoke, but you have to keep re-feeding it for long lasting smoke.  It's actually really nice for ritual, because you can change scents as you go.

They sell incense made in two different monasteries; one on the Holy Mountain of Mt. Athos, a center of Greek monastic tradition, and some made at Holy Cross Monastery in WV.  In both places, the monks take turns praying "“Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner” as they make the incense; this is called the "ceaseless prayer" and is a common feature of Eastern Orthodox monastic practice.   Be aware of this if you plan to use it for ritual; there are some works I feel this would not be appropriate for, and some (like working with Greek ancestors) where I expect it to be a bonus feature.  

Here's a video of how it's made at a different Greek monastery (in MA), showing a lot of the ritual.  The powder at the beginning is ground frankincense resin.  The oil he pours out in a cross differs depending on what kind is being made.  The powder at the end is the clay, to keep it from getting sticky..

I chose the "create your own sample pack" which is your choice of 7 incenses for $15, plus I got a bonus pack.  I got a heaping tablespoon of each kind.  That's about 50 pellets for each kind.  VERY good price!

I placed my order Friday night and got it today (Monday).  They're located in Lykens (near Harrisburg).  If you're not in PA, it might take 3 days to get an order.  Contrast this with many Pagan suppliers:  In today's mail, I also got something from a "big name" Witch Supplies place I won't name, but that order I placed in early August, and was guaranteed delivery by late September.  (it's Halloween).

Here are the individual kinds I got, with my commentary on each:

Catacombs (Holy Cross):  This is a surprisingly sweet and femme smell, given the name.  Rose, vanilla, musk, and cedar.  Good for Hekate the red-footed maiden, I would think.  It's nice, but I probably won't order this again.

Seraphim (Mt. Athos):  VERY nice.  Light, slightly spicy, with an almost creamy base.  I can't identify what's in this one.  Maybe cinnamon and honey over the frankincense?  Fire-y, but in a cozy hearth way, not a raging bonfire.

Lindisfarne (Holy Cross): Lindisfarne is a holy island off the northeastern coast of England, near Edinburgh with a very old monastery on it.  Why does an Orthodox company have an incense named after a Celtic holy island?  You're guess is as good as mine, but it's a really nice incense.  Sandalwood, with some rose and musk.  Good for fairy magic, I would think.  I will order more of this one.

Batiushka (Mt Athos):  "Batiushka" is Russian for "little father" and is a term of endearment for a priest. This is very clean smelling, and sort of foresty.  Cedar maybe?  or balsam?  Smells kind of Christmasy.  It's nice, but not my favorite.  This was my "bonus" pack, not one of the ones I picked.

Garden of Gethsemane (Holy Cross): This is a very nice, floral, slightly spicy smell.  Lots of roses and a bit of ginger.  Smells like Spring.  Would be good for Kore-Persephone work.

Old Church (Holy Cross):  This is, IMO, the winner out of the bunch. Deep, rich, herbal and resinous.  This smells like a witch's cottage deep in the woods.  I will FOR SURE be getting more of this one.  I think it might be my go-to temple incense from now on.

Cherubim (Holy Cross): Honestly, this is VERY similar to Seraphim, but slightly less spicy and more creamy.

Panagia (Holy Cross): This is frankincense base with a strong damascus rose overtop.  Very Venus.   Nice, but nothing special.  It's pretty much like every other frankincense/rose incense I've used.  Smells very "churchy" to me.

Now that I'm slightly dizzy from huffing frankincense for an hour, I'll wrap up. is highly recommended by me.

If you try some, let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

There is No Center

I have this teaching I want to communicate, but I'm not sure how to explain it. If you have time, please read this and ask questions to help me figure out how to make it clearer?

We are usually told that, in ancient days, people thought that the earth was at the center of the universe. And that later, it was discovered that was in error, and actually the earth goes around the sun.

Now, it is certainly true that the path the earth traces through space, if you fix the sun as the single unmoving center of the world is a simpler shape than the path the sun traces through space if you fix the earth and let everything else move around it. BUT...

The fact of the matter is that THERE IS NO CENTER. Everything that is rotates is complicated ways around everything else. But we're all still so wedded to Heliocentrism that it's hard for us to even see what a huge and blinding mistake it is.

The first understanding of the Divine is along a line. You can down, or you can go up. There is Earth, and the Things Above the Earth, and the Things Below the Earth. Up and Down are very different, though. Going down is easy, and going up is hard. The "center" is where I am.

Next, we understand that the earth is round; "down" isn't a direction relative to us, it's "toward the center of the earth". By understanding the earth as a sphere that we live on the outside of, we know that "the center of the world" isn't actually actually in "the world" we live in. Big jump, and a hard one. Remember when you were very little, and you thought people in Australia were upside down? Remember when you were so foolish as to think "north" meant "up"?

But then, we made the move to heliocentrism, the idea that the center of the world wasn't just really far away, it wasn't a thing we could always feel. In the day, we could spot the exact center of things, but by night, we could not. Not just that I'm not the "center of the universe". Not just that the difference between "down" and "up" are completely clear. You can feel where the Sun is, but you can also avoid feeling it. The mystic power that keeps the Earth in motion around the Sun is THE EXACT SAME POWER that pulls us to the heart of the Earth. When we talk about the power the Earth exerts on us, it is so obvious as to be undeniable. The Sun has far more gravity than the Earth, and the effects of the Sun's gravity are everywhere, they make possible every moment of your existence. And yet, it is so subtle that you forget about it until you stop to think. And yet, the Sun is reassuring "real"; it shines on every point on earth. You can see it in the sky, and feel its warmth kiss your skin. It will burn you if you remain too long in its glare, and staring directly at it will make you go blind.

But, the SUN IS NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. That's not because the Sun orbits around the Galactic Center (although it does). It's not because out galaxy is also slowly dancing through the void. It's because the very notion of a "center" is ABSURD. There is not such thing as a center. It's NOT TRUE that down is different than up, it just seems that way because you are small and Earth is big. You pull on her EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT that She pulls on you.

A plane doesn't have a center, a circle does. Only bounded things can have centers (There's a caveat here, PM me if you want to hear about it) It seems like the universe goes on and one and on forever when you look out into it, but it seems like each of us has a center; that you can only go so deep inside yourself before you reach some kind of singularity. But that's actually nonsense. Just like the happenstance of being smaller than a planet is what leads you into the error of thinking that "up" is different than "down". It's the absurd happenstance of having a body that makes you think that "out" is somehow different than "in".

When we think about Divinity, about Power, and Being, it's easy to think about there being two "kinds" of divinity....the "small" divinity we find inside of ourself, and the "big" divinity that lives.....outside of us...away in the heavens. Those only seem small because you are obsessed with idea of their being a center. But the whole idea of centers is ridiculous. In/Out, Up/Down....the demonization of the cthonic, the disempowerment of the cthonic, the idea that there's a difference between "the god above" and "the god within"....all of those are artifacts of the insistence, not that Man is not the center of the Universe (although that is true). They arise from the illusion that there could even be a center.

People were mistaken when they worshipped the Earth as the center of the universe. They were mistaken when they worshipped the Sun as the center of the universe. They are mistaken when they worship the Creator of All That is as the center of the Universe. They are mistaken when they look for the center of the universe by going inside of themselves. The whole notion of centricity is bullshit. The points of view that create elliptical paths are not truer than the ones that create spiraling ones. They are sometimes more useful for certain operations. They let us see a bigger picture. But no matter how big you make God, he is still too small. As long as you're looking for a center, you are no longer observing the way that things actually are, you are making a model of the world to help other people understand it. And that is good and noble work, because one of those people will eventually see further than you can, but only by standing on your shoulders. BUT, don't ever imagine that anything you can see from where you are is anything even near to everything that is. The world is so much weirder than any model you can possibly imagine right now. ALL of science is ALWAYS WRONG, because science is the literal actual process of falsifying things.

Technical jargon: Because Truth, necessary truth, is necessarily incorrigible, science cannot possibly help you say anything at all about Truth, it can ONLY tell you what's false. There are things in the world that will never be understood, but the only way to see them is to try and understand them as best as you can, and fail, painfully, shamefully, and absurdly, forever. You will never find the center. You will never escape from it's pull. There is no fucking center.

Explaining Magic to Family, Friends, and Co-Workers

This post is a response to Jason Miller's excellent one of the same title, which you should read here before continuing.

It's so rare for Jason and I to disagree, I read this several times to figure out where we diverged. And it's not really a disagreement; I don't think anything he said anything wrong. But there's a piece I think he left out. And I'm pretty sure he agrees with me on this, because I learned this schtick from him.

So you don't want to be thought of as evil (and there ARE legitimate reasons why you might want to present as evil; some in our world lack monsters, and without monsters, heroes have no one to fight but each other. But that's a hard fucking row to sow, and not my calling).   HOW do you convince people you're not evil?  One way, I am sure, is to convince them that everyone does it. That you're not REALLY doing that thing they thought was so bad, you're doing some other thing entirely. That will 100% work, and I understand it as a tactic for dealing with strangers and people you don't care about. But there's another option, which is much harder, but (for me, at least) worth it. You can redeem the thing they thought was bad.

The only way to do that, the way I think Jason is actually doing it (and I think that because I actually learned, not just how to do this thing, but that it was even possible, from watching him Be this thing), is to be so overwhelmingly, radiantly, and obviously Good that anyone who knows you cannot doubt it.  Learn how to have Lightning in your eyes and simultaneously the cool, deep, reassurance of the Earth.  Learn to be the Storm and the Sun.

Hold yourself to far higher standards of Goodness than "everyone does it". Much, much higher standards than you would hold other people. Much, much higher than they hold themselves, higher than they would even dream to hold you to. Be the kind of Witch that, when Fundamentalists first meet you, they see the Light of the Angels shining in your eyes before you say a word. Be so Good that they question everything they believe about good and evil (which, while hard, isn't really as hard as it sounds; the whole notion of good vs evil is pretty self-evidently stupid; all you have to do is get them to look at it askance, and it falls right over). Clean yourself of the soot and filth of the world until the ineffable, but undeniable Divinity at the Core of Your Being (and also everyone else's being) shines forth as an aura of Radiant, Charismatic Bliss. Be the kind of person that no one who actually knows could possibly question the inherent goodness of. Be good not like a child, and not even like a saint. Be Good the way sunlight is good, the way clean water is Good, the way friendship and family are Good.

The thing of it is, you don't actually have to be that Good all the time.  Just often enough that they can't forget you have it in you.  Really, you probably only have to do it for a single moment, if you do it right.  But, it's even better if you can do it a lot.  Let them see that even the Witch is made out of the Divine Light.  Give them the opportunity to see the Dark and the Light together, instead of denying the Dark, and people eventually start to understand that Goodness isn't a thing they have to do, it's a thing they already are, it's the thing that they're made out of.  Don't tell them that Witches aren't really evil.  Just show them that a Witch can be Good.  And, really, what's even the point of even having friends and family if you don't Love them enough to know they're more than capable of understanding that simple and self evident fact? What kind of Work can you accomplish with a coworker you don't care about even that much?

Now, I'm not saying you have to Love everyone the way you Love your family. This is about how to explain magic to friends, family, and coworkers. This isn't about how to explain it to your neighbor, the asshole who is always knocking over your trash cans, and calling the cops when you park in a way he doesn't like.  It seems absurd to say your should Love your neighbor like you love a brother? Like you love yourself? Pshhaw.


Remembering Eternity by Autumn Morrison

When last we left our heroes, Simon and I were thinking the second gate, which involves oneiromancy, would a be a cult dedicated to a god of dreaming. But then there came a dream revelation. Mine was a dream of the Trojan War.  Simon dreamt of a Goat at war with a Great Red Dragon.

The Second Gate is the Gate of Dreaming, but where is key to such a gate?  When Ereshkigal taught me these gates, here is how it was phrased: "You’ve come to the gate, the first gate underground, the Serpent Gate, the gates of Irkalla,  the underworld gate, the first gate under the ground.  On the other side of the gate, further and further into the dark, deeper and deeper into the dark, you hear the river, bubbling, calling you forward.  When you’re past through the gate, the Serpent Gate, the Gate Underground, you find you left your body.  You don’t need it here, you can’t take it here.  It will wait for us, safe and secure, for us to return to the land of life.  

The corridor continues, deeper and deeper, further and further, into the World Below.  The path curves to the left, to the right, then left, left and right and left, right, right, left, turning and turning, the labyrinth under the world, the dry lands, the path of stones.  Here are the Old Powers, the ancient ones under the earth.  

A second door rises up before us, a cast portal, shimmering like the moon, wavering like mist. The Dream Gate, which you pass through every night, now you walk through while you are awake.  On the other side you still hear the river, bubbling like a stream, cool and quenching.  Passing through the gate, we leave all our illusions behind, seeing only true things, and knowing them to be true.  The path continues, turning and curving, winding and winding, sloping ever down, down, down, deeper and deeper, further and further, into the unknown dark."

How does the Dream Gate manifest in this game?  Both Simon and my dreams told us the same answer, once we were ready to listen.  The Cult of Philadelphia when the Church was planted there was the Imperial cult of Rome.  BUT, before the deification of Caesar as the father of the entire Roman People, each Roman worshipped the Father of their own Clan. Long before Catholics were breaking people of ancestor worship, the imperial cult was already stealing the protective gens from every people it encountered and subduing them to the will of the State. Opening the second gate provokes a dream to help you find the cult of your fathers (not mothers, specifically fathers; we think mothers will come later), and thereby restore an essential part of your own dignity as a human being that has long been missing.

In Rome, the "god of your fathers" was called your "genius", a tutelary spirit on the Meandering mortal path between the god you used to be and the god you are becoming. For example, the genius of Julius Cesar was Venus, the parent of the Aeneas, the ancestor of the Julii, the founder of Rome. But, every people and every person has a genius; the second gate is about finding yours. The oldest, most powerful, most aristocratic Roman families had geniuses that everyone in Rome worshiped because the progenitor of their line was the offspring of an actual god. Or, perhaps it is that those progenitors which received the most worship are the only ones who become gods. Either way, this, is the central conceit of ancestor worship as a magical, rather than religious practice: By worshipping your ancestors, you elevate them to divinity, and that elevates you into a Hero: someone who is born of a god. The gate of Philadelphia is the gate of brotherly love. One key to the second gate is ancestor worship. Do that. Here's a key to provoke the necessary dream, crafted by Andrieh Vitimus, which worked for me, when I opened this one. But, if you want one specially crafted just for you, based on YOUR father's father's gods, all you have to do is ask me before Halloween and I will make one just for you.

In plain language, here is the key that will unlock the second gate, the gate of the moon. (Fun fact: someone who can carry someone across the threshold of the first gate is called a magician. Someone who can carry someone through the second gate is called a priestess.)
1) Decide you want to have a revelatory dream to teach you the name of your genius, who will carry you across the second gate.
2) Awaken your connection to your ancestors. This time of year, that gate is open by itself right now, whether you open it or not.  Whether you like it or not.  The Gate of the Ancestors is open all week.  Unlocked.  Just walk through it.  They're shouting the answer at you right now.
3) Dream a dream of the cult of your ancestors. As soon as you commit to having such a dream, you will have it. Even if you don't usually have access to memories of your dreams. Even if you thought you were going to fail this gate.
4) Figure out the clues in your dream to acquire Knowledge of your Genius. This Knowledge is the gift of the third gate. When you know your genius' name, you'll have crossed through the second gate, and be a winner.
5) BONUS ROUND (Hero Mode): Have a conversation with your genius. Get it to teach you how to make a key that unlocks other people's higher geniuses. Hold the door of the second gate as wide open as you can, for as long as you can. Get as many people through as you can. Liberate an army of Djinn.


A report from a scout, looking back over the open second gate to the first: Here, on the far side of the second gate, is the bower of blessedness, where is consummated the marriage of Sun and Moon. The bridal bower stands upon the hill of Philadelphia. From here, you can see a long way. In particular, the third gate comes sharply into focus. That is the gate of birth, of the body, of matter; the gate of place and time. As the first Gate was the Illuminating Sun, and the second was the Invisible (but Reflective) Moon. The third Gate is is the gate of Mankind, the gate of the Body. I cannot, at this moment, provide more hints about the third gate, but Simon can. Because, really, I can imagine no better Hero of the Gate of the Body than he. And so, it is with complete confidence that I assure you, by Wed, Nov 2nd, there will be a key to the third gate ready.  When I opened this gate, it was with the assistance of Ereshkigal, the Flint-Nailed Lady of Pain.  Her teaching to me was thus:

"A third door, sold iron, is solid and heavy. This is the Gate of Fear, and the only key that opens it is Love. On the other side of the gate, you might find a fear. Look on it unwavering, accepting, and loving, and that which you feared will become your good guide. As the gate swings open, remember to love. Your fear will arise, but simply abide, love your fear and make it your guide. You’ve mastered your fear, felt the fear but stayed true, you loved your fear and now it’s an ally. The Gate of Fear Turned to Love is behind you, continue to walk, walk the labyrinth path underground. Walking deeper and deeper, further and further, into Irkalla, into the depths of the dark."

NOTE:  I have no reason to believe that this gate is scary or painful for anyone except me.  I just did it wrong the first time.

And yet, while I cannot (yet) describe to you the key that unlocks the third gate, I do know what lies beyond it.  Once you have passed through the first three gates you will see the sign of Pluto, who is the cross of Man, holding aloft the Moon's crescent, surmounted by the ball of the Sun. Pluto, who reigns in the Underworld, is, these days, usually understood as a god of death, but before he was that, he was already the god of treasure. Pluto, who became king of the Underworld was not born there; he entered into the Underworld to remove its treasures, and married the Queen he found there. The treasures of Pluto are buried in the Underworld, but they did not originate there. They are of the world and in the world, and are the world.

The next four gates (once assembled) are called, in Latin: Prima Materia; the First Matter, the Primal Mother. In Greek, they are called Anima Mundi, the World Soul, the Living Map.  But we will tackle it in four pieces.

The first is the gate of fire, the torchbearer will lead us up the first step from the Underworld into the light. Next, we will cross the gate of air, where the will-o-whisp Wind will whistle our way.

Thence to the gate of earth, in Smyrna, where our guide will be the terrible slayer of Heroes, the Great Hunter, the Warrior Dragon, the Palm Tree King, Lord Saman-ana, the Bison-beast, the Mermaid, the Seven-headed Snake, the Six-headed Wild Ram.

Finally, in Ephesus, we will open the gates of the primeval waters, reuniting the water below with the water above. And in Ephesus, we find the Mystery that was the Greatest of the Seven Wonders of the World, of which Antipater said: "I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand"

In Ephesus, we find the Pillar-Formed, 
Many Breasted Lady of Beasts. In Ephesus, the Cult that chased Paul out of town.  The Gate of the Ephesian Mystery might be locked, but with their dying breath, they tricked Paul into recording the passcode to their Mystery:

Μεγάλη ἡ Ἄρτεμις Ἐφεσίων!

This has been the final public revelation of Apokalypsis, but the Game is not yet over.  There are four more missives available to players.  All you have to do to ensure you are a player is play, and if you want to be on my team, just ask.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In the Hour of the Sun, It is Begun, It is Come!

"Here Comes the Sun" by Christine Webb of

Missive One: Laodicea

East of the cold Meander, West of the Hero-polis’ Hot Springs,
Lackadaisical Laodicean lawyers litigate the differences twixt things
and seal up mysteries of multiplicity in a murky modern grave.

But no lawyer’s lock keeps out the lunar crowned god of thieves,
Who slips sideways, slides sidereal, floats and ducks and weaves
The magician then is Masterless, is Egoless, is Brave.

The master thief slips betwixt three worlds, on feet as fleet as wings,
Riding the solar barge beneath the world, on Icarus-Iacchus’ golden leaves,
A hero’s journey in seven steps, a quest with narry one queen to save.

Roll back the rock from the catacombs
There's talk of Bacchic Katabasis
No mere lock could block the Bacchi
anymore than I might talk you out of stasis.
Liberated Liberatti fought that all might understand-
Liber Sabazionysus Oserappis Zagripan!

The point when the will meets reality and one must give?
That is when you discover that the will is no mere fantasy, built from effervescent air,
The will, indomitable, inviolable, indubitable, ineffable,
Sabazious Invictus,
Solar Fire brought to Life.

The Key is to LISTEN
and then to SPEAK.


Set aside an hour, ideally an hour of the sun.

Use headphones.

Speak aloud, OUT LOUD, move air over your teeth, vibrate it in your throat.

Speak the words ALOUD.

Listen. Record, if you can.

Have a glass of water ready for when you come down.

When you pass through the Gate of the Sun, Sabazios will offer you the Seal of this knowledge. It may be in the form of the secret handshake. It may be that he whispers you the word. In either of these signs, you conquer.  Report back to us when you have crossed over.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Euoi Saboi!!

Ceremony of Passage, from Vas's album In the Garden of Souls, performed by Greg Ellis

How I imagine Sabazios
I've written before about my first experience with Sabazios, but I wanted to talk about him a little more today. Sabazios was a Thracian horse god, though his cult spread through Lydia and Greece as well, and eventually through the Roman Empire, where he was primarily syncretized with Jupiter, but also with Dionysus (in his mystery cult) and occasionally Helios. Because most of the sources of information we have on his cult are actively hostile to it, it's difficult to know much about it. In later days of the Roman empire, there were those (including Plutarch) was also syncretized him with צבאות, (Adonai Tzavaoth, the God of Hosts).

Sabazios, the horse god of Thrace, was also a god of the grain.  Like Attis-Adonis-Tammuz, he dies and is resurrected with the plants.  But he was also a god of beer and mead, and it is this connection which united him most strongly with Dionysus.  In addition to his sacred honey-drink, he is associated with snakes, crowns, and, most strongly with strange cult objects we call Hands of Sabazios.  These hands are found throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the Balkans, as far north as Belgium.

liberty cap mushrooms
Attis (Phrygian Tammuz)
We have very little scholarship about Sabazios; his cult was mysterious (open only to the initiated) and run by women.  We know that the ancients considered it very similar to the Dionysian Mystery cult of Greece (and, in fact, there are many good reasons to believe that, when they came in contact with each other, the two cults merged to form the Mystery.  The Mystery of Dionysus doubtless involved intoxication, most scholars agree it included a special mead brewed with sacred herbs.  I am not sure what those herbs were, but my personal gnosis tells me that it included liberty cap mushrooms, Psilocybe semilanceata.   Liberty caps grow wild all over the northern hemisphere, but are especially prevalent in Europe and Asia Minor.  We call them "liberty caps" because they look like the hats worn by French Revolutionaries, who adopted them based on the Roman tradition of them being worn by freed
Bendis (Phyrgian
slaves.  However, the Romans themselves mostly called that sort of hat a "Phrygian cap", because it was the national costume of the people of Phrygia (in what we now call Anatolia).  We don't have a lot of Greek mythology concerning mushrooms (probably because it was a closely guarded secret of the Mystery Cults), but we know that in Egypt they were called "the sons of the gods" and "the plants of immortality" and that they were propagated by Set, throwing spore-covered lightning bolts to earth.  Given the obvious similarity in shape, it seems clear to me that the Phyrgian cap, so beloved by the Phyrgian gods, is in fact an allusion to the mushroom itself.

And so I believe that the magical honey mead of the cult of Sabazios was laden with psilocybin.  But what else can we determine about the cult itself?  All of the ancient sources we have on the cult (which are few and far between) compare it very directly to the Dionysian Mysteries.  The Dionysian Mystery cult, although open to everyone, was primarily a cult of social outsiders: women, slaves, and foreigners.  At it's root, it promised liberation.  Its key magical practice was spirit possession, in

which the cultist becomes the horse of the spirits. Several methods of trance induction were undoubtedly used. In addition to chemognosis, whether from wine, mean, herb, or mushroom (or, in my opinion, a combination of all of them), drums & bullroarers player a key role, as did ecstatic dance. Euripides (who, remember, is an enemy of the cult) describes it thus "Following the torches as they dipped and swayed in the darkness, they climbed mountain paths with head thrown back and eyes glazed, dancing to the beat of the drum which stirred their blood' ... 'In this state of ekstasis or enthusiasmos, they abandoned themselves, dancing wildly and shouting 'Euoi!' and at that moment of intense rapture became identified with the god himself. They became filled with his spirit and acquired divine powers."

The promise of the Dionysian Mysteries is freedom from domestication, the liberation of the self; reaffirming the Wild nature of man as in and of the world. This is not the killing of the dragon by St Michael, nor even the mastery of it by St George. In the Dionysian mysteries, the Dragon becomes the Self.  The cult of Dionysus was considered by "proper" Athenians to be dangerously liberative, uncivilized, and a hotbed of insurrection.

So, how did one become an initiate of the Dionysian Mysteries?  Obviously, there is very little first-hand reporting, partly because it was forbidden to discuss the mysteries with the uninitated, but also because, one imagines, a large portion of the initaites were illiterate.   Not just that, but the cult was considered, at least to some extent, an enemy of the state, and permitted only so long as the gods were still feared.  In ancient days, the process was different for men and for women.  We know more about the women's rites than the men's, because portions of the initiatory temple of the mysteries, the so-called Villa of Mysteries, were preserved in Pompeii, and contain murals which depict (scholars believe) a female initiate's journey. However, remember that what is depicted is a very late, Roman version of the cult.  Here is what we know:

For men, the initiation involved a descent into the underworld (katabasis), and took place in catacombs. In the dark, the initiate become possessed of Dionysus, and was thereafter referred to as "a bacchus".    In the underworld, there is some kind of ordeal, and something or someone is sought out, and brought back above the world, with varying degrees of success.

For women, the process was different.  Before entering into the underworld, they became inspired by Ariadne, the ancient Minoan Mistress of the Labyrinth.  After an ordeal, most likely flagellation, but perhaps ritualized hanging, she too descended into the Underworld.  (or, perhaps, the ordeal took place in the underworld; it is unclear).  After some kind of sexual initiation, the woman is led up back into the world, where she received a staff and cap.

Of the mysteries, Arthur Edward Waite (who, lets' recall was something of a Victorian twat, in addition to being a bang-up magician) writes this of the mysteries: "Whatsoever may have remained to represent the original intent of the rites, regarded as Rites of Initiation, the externalities and practice of the Festivals were orgies of wine and sex: there was every kind of drunkenness and every aberration of sex, the one leading up to the other. Over all reigned the Phallus, which—in its symbolism à rebours—represented post ejaculationem the death-state of Bacchus, the god of pleasure, and his resurrection when it was in forma arrecta. Of such was the sorrow and of such the joy of these Mysteries."

What might the original version of this cult look like?  What did it look like before it was "softened" and brought into accord with the patriarchal values of Greece?  Before it was reshaped to do homage to Rome?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Aποκάλυψις: The Seven Seals

Sara Mastros, Simon Zealot, and the Pittsburgh Winter Harvest (PWH) are pleased to announce our first game of the year: Aποκάλυψις: The Seven Seals

Apokalypsis is a game of mystery and revelation, of poetry, and magic. The game is open to everyone, free to play, and rewards richly its winners and heroes. Every Wednesday, for seven weeks, players receive a new missive. You have seven days to decrypt the missive, follow the hidden clues, and unlock the gate you find to reveal the next set of clues. On December first, Bodhi Day 5777, if all Seven Gates are open, the Great Revelation of the Game will be announced, Winners will be acclaimed, and Hero's Prizes Awarded. There is no way to lose the game, except to not play.  (NOTE:  Because the game is expired, prizes are no longer available, but you can still play, and the real prize, wherein you open within yourself (and without) the gates of what the Church has locked away from you) are, obviously, always available.

Some players may choose to work alone, or in small teams. Some might play with, and some might play against. For the Greatest Reward, play on Hero Mode: throw open the Gates for everyone, and clear the path of stumbling blocks for those who follow after you. To play along with the game, all you need to do is play along; you can quit at any time. Like or comment to declare you are playing, and use the hashtag #ApokalypsisGame to mark your own revelations.  The first missive, below, is your clue to opening the initiatory gate, the Gate of Heros.

Missive Zero:

On the meander-path of revelation, there are seven stairs, which are seven stars, which are seven immortal mystery cults. The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse are seals upon these gates, shackles on the truth Below, built on the ruins of the Temples of Magic. And yet, what is hidden is also the Revelation, and every Church is built on the ruins the previous Temple.

If sport is the sad compromise made by warrior peoples to slate a thirst for blood, art provides a similar succor to the soul of every struggling god-king deprived of his or her magic. Reclaiming that divine rite requires retracing the path of its greatest destroyer, the Pauline Church, and excavating from the chthonic ruins beneath their first Churches the pagan powers that are still held beneath. These so-called Seven Churches of the Apocalypse each contain another piece of the ancient mysteries that Paul had to eliminate in order to secure his own cult's supremacy. The Age of his supremacy is over.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

5777: The Eleusinian Mystery Comes Home

On Sunday night, as I returned from Crucible with Simon (and others), the sun sank on 5776, and the Evening Star (who is the Morning Star, mystery of mysteries) dawned on 5777, the year of the revelation of secrets, and the making of Masters Mahan.

Hear the words of the Great Queen Below, Περσεφόνη, who is, in turn, the Queen of both Autumn and Spring, She of the Dry Lands, and She Whose Tears are the Rain of Spring. We are told that Persephone is the daughter of Younger Demeter, The Great Golden Goddess of the Grain, and yet, in you heart, you know that to be false.  Agriculture, the great gift of Demeter, arises from Persephone, She Who Rules the Seasons, and not the other way round.  In myth, as civilizations rose and fell, Zeus became her father, but that too is a lie.  Persephone is the daughter of the Demeter-Gaia and Okeanos, the inheritor of both Land and Deep.  Despoina, the Lady of the House, Mistress of Mystery, whose Name is known only in the hearts of the initiated, whispered now as it always has been, in song and story and dream.

This, then, is the mystery you know but have forgotten:  There is only one Queen, who rules Light and Dark, who goes Below and arises Again, an eternal cycle, spring following fall and day follows night, the Holy ONE, Blessed Be She:

"In this time, when honey bees lose their buzz, and the tree brings forth blossoms at midwinter, when the Grandfather of Trees makes strong men weep for our folly, Praxidike inclines her head and speaks: Children of Soot, Who Bring Hell to Earth and Earth to Hell, listen to my words and hear them.  It is not too late.  Artisi Cthonia, she of the snake and the bee, is alive; what dies will rise again. BUT you must make haste to act.  Here, in the western reaches of the world, you must raise up a House of Wisdom, a grove for Persphone of the Confluence.  Where three rivers meet, the daughter of Life and Death enters into the World Below."

There are those who will tell you that Persephone was stole away by Hades, but that too you know to be false. When you were child, and first heard the story, you knew it, even then, to be a lie.
Πλούτων is the god of the underworld, but he is no cruel devil. In him germinate all seeds, from him arises all wealth.  In his darkness, Persephone is held safe, while she storms, while she grows, while she winters.