Hymn to Silenos

I pray to Silenos Noble drunkard, wise fool, Wild man of the woods, Foster-father to the Bacchic One. Horse-eared and horse-tailed, You ride your ass through the revels, Dispensing inebriated philosophy, As wise as it is slurred, As caring as it is jumbled. Bless us with your wisdom And don't fall off....

Knucklebones

This has been a fascinating journey. Really. Also a rather rank one. I'm currently taking Sannion's Toys of Dionysos class. (If you're interested in finding out more, you can check out Sannion's book Spirits of Initiation. There may also be future classes.) One of the Toys is the Astragaloi, or knucklebones, which were used as dice. I decided to try some bone cleaning to see if I could get some sets together. After some research into bone cleaning, I decided the smart thing to do was to pick up an old slow cooker at the Goodwill, grab some enzymatic detergent, and set it to simmer in the garage. The bone cleaning page above is from the UK, and suggests that it's very easy to find "biological washing powder", but of course we label things very differently in the US. After some more research, I ended up with Seventh Generation Clean and Clear natural detergent, which has three different enzymes. That's an old crockpot from the 70s, btw, and the stoneware pot doesn't come out, so it can't be washed easily. It's now a dedicated bone cleaning pot, and won't be used for anything else. Now, I knew that knucklebones come from sheep or goat feet. I didn't, however, know that there are two different types of bones used (the kneecap and anklebones), or that there are only two anklebones per foot. I thought they were toe bones and there were four. This page set me straight, though. The bones labeled 7 are the knucklebones. I started with four feet, picked up at my local halal shop, which was about a pound. They were frozen, so I thawed them in the fridge overnight, then dumped them in the crockpot with maybe 2-3 tablespoons of detergent, set it on low (you can't let it boil, or the fat sinks into the bones and makes them yellow and greasy), and let it go for 24 hours. I came back, and the smell in the garage was... not exactly terrible, but overwhelming for sure. If you've made stock from scratch, you're probably familiar with the smell of rendering collagen. It was that, plus mutton, turned up to eleven. Wow. The contents of the pot looked disgusting, but nearly all the tissue had already fallen off the bones. I poured off the yuck and as much water as possible into a dishpan, added fresh water and some more detergent, and left it overnight again. (I didn't get pictures of the cooking process. I might next time, but it was pretty nasty looking.) This time there was much less yuck. I just poured it off and collected the bones. I rinsed them thoroughly to get rid of the detergent, four or five times. They were basically completely clean, but I gave the knucklebones a good scrub with a firm bristle toothbrush and some dish soap and warm water, just to make sure. Then I rinsed them again. I rinsed the bones the same way I wash rice: submerge them in a bowl of warm water, agitate a bit, see how cloudy the water gets, drain it, repeat until the water's mostly clear. Again, four or five times. Then I laid them out and let them air dry. They came out much whiter than I expected. Set of four bones, one fore and one aft foot (as best I could make out), each showing a different side of the die. The sides should be numbered 1, 3, 4 and 6, with opposite sides totally 7. Unlike the kneecaps, there appears to be no standard way to number these bones, but instead the numbers would be marked, the same on each bone. I also ended up with an assortment of other bones, some of which are quite nifty looking. Not sure yet what I'll do with them. And that's it. My boney adventure....

God Nights

A new practice I've been working on taking up is having designated nights where I make offerings to and contemplate one of the gods with whom I am most involved. A night for Hekate was already built in -- the deipnon on the night of the new moon -- and I'd been making offerings and sometimes doing oracular work for Dionysos on the full moon. Since I'm looking at both starting up a business again and going back to school, upping my worship of Hermes seemed like a good plan, and I was finally putting together a separate altar for Ariadne, and it just seemed to come together to add them on the first and third quarters respectively. They mostly aren't a big production. Offerings and contemplation, usually just chilling out a bit with them as it were. If I'm going to do bigger ritual for them, it will be on those nights, but most of the time there's no reason to. A couple of weeks ago, I was set to babysit my friends' kids. Their 11 year old has been known to join me for worship from time to time, and is particularly fond of Hermes, whom she likes to call "the God of Fast". (She likes speed. I dread the day she learns to drive.) It just happened to be the same night as the first quarter, so I asked her if she'd like to join me for it. We made offerings of candy from her private stash (I'm still working out exactly what the best offering for Hermes is, but so far he seems to like sweet things), and read each other stories about him. She read to me from Greek Mythology Link, and I ended up reading her this story from Myths Retold, which puts various myths and legends into some of the more excited forms of net communication, full of sentence fragments, digressions and casual cussing. Like this: Yes it is greek history time again which means it is time to learn about assholes or really, one asshole generally when we talk about history we tend to focus on one or two assholes at a time (or else whole huge groups of assholes that run in packs leaving great greasy black trails of shit all over everything but that’s gross so today we’re only talking about one) (From Alcibiades is Handsome as Hell) Also it has really entertaining lines like referring to a certain superficially similar set of trickster-messenger gods (including Hermes) as "just a fast-moving jerk clown swinging more dick than a playground full of private detectives." So that seemed appropriate for a Hermes night. I wouldn't read from that blog for most gods (although I should really look up anything it has on Dionysos), but I figured Hermes would be amused. I haven't been as consistent in observing these as I might like so far, but when I do manage these evenings, they feel good. A little time taken apart from everything else just to be with my gods. Brings me closer to them....

On (Not) Finding Dionysos

At Many Gods West, there was a point where the Bakcheion members were talking about how we began to worship Dionysos. And I discovered, listening to the others, that I didn't really have a story. I have a Hekate story, which I tell sometimes. Midnight, a crossroads, an offering, and a black dog that wandered up out of nowhere. Good stuff. But there's not a story about me and Dionysos. I started learning about and practicing Wicca in 1994, during the summer before my junior year in high school. I was acting at the time, taking drama classes at school, going to drama competitions, I was part of a youth acting troupe at a local theater, going on auditions for things. Acting was what I wanted to do. And Dionysos is the patron of theater, the god to whom it is sacred. So I bought, at my theater's gift shop, a pressed glass disk with the comedy and drama masks on it, and set that on my altar. It's been part of my altar ever since, and is still on my Dionysos altar today, hanging from the mirror. I went to college and majored in theater. I was diagnosed with a mental illness, and that was yet another connection to Dionysos. I dropped out of college, but I never stopped being mentally ill, so I was always just one of his people. Ecstatic experiences came first during manias, and later when I had those under better control, I would learn how to reach a similar state intentionally, both in worship of Dionysos and of Hekate. I learned how and when to use it as a cleansing, how to manage my mental illness better with it, and I learned how and when to simply give myself over to it for pure joy and worship. But all of this was a gradual learning, a process. No story to it. Just something that happened over the course of a couple of decades, now. There were many small understandings and revelations, but no single big one, or even a small number of big ones. I didn't find Dionysos. He's just always been there, right nearby, close enough to touch whenever I needed to....

Bound

Someone else at Many Gods West had the name Rebecca (although it's not her use-name in pagan/polytheist circles) and works with yarn and thread. She made a connection for me I'd somehow never made on my own. Rebecca, which comes from a Hebrew name, means "bound". As in, tied with rope, string, yarn or thread. Wow. The Purple Thread, the Silver Thread. Another connection. Another tie. And another connection with Dionysos, the Liberator, the Unbinder. I shall unbind my hair and wear a fawn skin. I am bound and unbound. Hmm......

The Satyr Game

I haven’t done group ritual in years, so I haven’t had cause to remember it for some time, but this came up at the Filled With Frenzy bebakcheumenion ritual at Many Gods West this weekend. Sometimes it takes people a bit to let go and give in to the frenzy and the ecstasy, and I find this is a good way to help them. I learned this weekend that it's also a good way to redirect someone who's a little too far into it and has fixated on someone or something that's inappropriate. I generally play the game as a maenad to a satyr, but both the game and those roles work well regardless of gender. It's ever so simple. I come up to someone, hands out, and say "Dance with me!" They don't need to take my hands, just to dance. Move faster and faster, preferable whirling in circles. Then I suddenly say "Chase me!" and turn and run, laughing. I had yet to have anyone fail to chase. Some instinct takes over, the unexpectedness of it surprises them into following, and before they know it, they've let go. I generally run as far as I'm up for, then "stumble" and slow, grab hold of them as they grab hold of me, and start dancing again....

Exhaustion After Frenzy

Wow. I'm home from Many Gods West, and completely exhausted. I spent the entire weekend completely focused on the ritual, and on the preparatory and finishing rituals our group did for ourselves. The only thing I caught was the last half of Rhyd Wildermuth's talk. No workshops, no anything. That's ok, that's all I meant to do. When I'm in a social situation that's scary for me, the best possible thing is to have Something To Do. At parties, I head for the kitchen and make something. The Chocolate Party Trick (melt chocolate in a double boiler, dip things in it, pop them in the freezer to set, and then distribute) is a favorite. For MGW, it was the ritual. The ritual itself was awesome, in the old sense. Truly amazing. And on Sunday, when I got to do a bit of socializing, it made a great conversation topic. Everyone who went loved it and complimented us on it. A few notes, largely for myself: Most of my job during the ritual itself was simply to check in with people. I discovered that a really good way to do this was to walk around with a bunch of grapes, and offer to feed them individually to people, with the simple phrase "a gift from the god". I could check pupils, assess them, connect to them without necessarily touching them. It worked beautifully. I discovered on Friday night, when we meant to make offerings to the Dead, that the Litany to the Many Dead converts well to call-and-response, simply by having them repeat the "We pray to the ____ Dead" lines after me. Playing Satyr (explanatory post later this week) works really well not only to get someone into satyr headspace and into the ritual, it gets those who witness it further into it. It also works well to refocus someone deep in trance who needs to be distracted from an inappropriate direction (we had somebody try to follow the maenads on their chase, which would have been bad). Ooof. I'm going to crash again now....