Here comes August

Last night, a strange thing happened. I felt almost eager for August to arrive. Normally, I dread this month, and feel much as Al Aronowitz did about it. August is the dead time, the dry time, the mad time. Every August, I feel sick, ungrounded, uncentered. This has long been an irony in my life. August is the month most sacred to Hekate, precisely because it is the dead time. The Dog Days of Summer are hers, under the influence of the Black Bitch's Dog Star. This is the time when she wanders the earth, when she hunts, when she comforts weeping Demeter and prepares resolute Persephone. It is her time. But I think that is precisely why it is so hard for me. It is sacred, but I have had trouble connecting to the sacredness, because I am so distracted by what the heat does to my body that I have had trouble involving myself fully in it. It has, I realize now, looking back over the past three years' archive of August posts, I begin to see an arc of change. Focusing more on Hekate and the Dead has grounded me more during the past few Augusts. And, unlike the past three years, this year I have an air conditioner for the bedroom against, which will make it easier to sleep and help with some of the physical impediments. This year I am already more focused on the Dead than I have ever been before, with not a nightly ritual from the Litany, but the introduction of the chief two figures of my spirit court -- I really must post about them -- and a ritual they gave me to open the way for the Dead who need help moving on called Pouring the Cauldron, which I now do every few weeks. (I need to talk about that as well.) Last year, August was relatively uneventful. I was focused on school a lot, being in my first quarter there, but I found the time to watch, read and listen to quite a bit of horror and ghost story. The year before, I focused my August on establishing a practice with the Dead. The year before that, I spent the whole of August praying solely to Hekate. This year, I feel secure in my practices with the Dead, I've just finished a period of more intense focus on Hekate (yet another thing to write about), so I don't feel the need to repeat my activities of 2015 and 2014. I will be watching a lot of horror -- my list this year is quite possibly longer than I can finish, but that's another post -- and I have another project, the investiture and consecration of a new tool, a Cauldron or Pot of Hekate. I think those two things will hold my focus on the sacred nicely. August also holds the birthday of my wife, which she doesn't care much about but I do, and a new friend I care a lot about. I'll be leaving for Florida and North Carolina for two weeks at the end of August, to go to my grandmother's 90th birthday and see various family members. And I'm actively looking forward to this year's horror movie fest. Weird....

Dead August

I've been feeling a strong pull to work more and more with the Dead this year. Between the Dionysian Dead theme (most of which was behind the scenes) for the Filled With Frenzy ritual and my own tradition of August being the Dead Time (which has multiple meanings), I've been putting off getting really deeply into it until the start of August. Now I'm devoting August to work with the Dead: the Dionysian Dead, the Hekataian Dead, the Ancestors, the Many Dead of the Litany. Any Dead. I kicked it off with the ritual group Bakcheion's private offerings and prayers to the Dead on Friday Night. I dressed in what became my "adventuring clothes" for the weekend, a black shirt with many tiny silver foil stars and black leggings with rhinestones up the side seams, plus my Dead Mask, a custom piece by my friend Dmitri at Tormented Artifacts made specifically for my ritual work with the Dead. I found myself at the lead of our procession (oops, I hadn't looked up where the park was; I put myself in the hands of Hekate, and found it anyhow). Originally, this had been a thing I meant to do for myself ahead of time. I told Sannion I was doing it, and he said, "Can I come?" Sure, I told him. "Can other people come?" Sure, but I don't write rituals for people, I'm just going to make the offering and say the prayers and that's it. "That's fine." Only we got to where I decided we were going, and I turned around and everyone was staring at me, expectantly. Well, shit. So I took the verses of the Litany that I wanted to use for the night, and made them a call-and-response. We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead All over the world and throughout history All those who have gone before me We remember you, and hold you in my prayers We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead Our ancestors of flesh and spirit 
We remember the names of those We knew We praise those whose names have been lost to me We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Beloved Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead Those who lived great lives 
Those who were the chosen of gods 
May you continue in joy and glory below We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Blessed Dead We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Restless Dead You whose names go unspoken You who died with things undone May you find release at last 
We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Restless Dead We pray to the Dionysian Dead We pray to the Dionysian Dead To the Children of Earth and Starry Heaven Whom we hope someday to join May you revel forever at our Lord’s side We pray to the Dionysian Dead We pray to the Dionysian DeadWe pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead All over the world and throughout history All those who have gone before us We remember you, and hold you in our prayers We pray to the Many Dead We pray to the Many Dead I told them that I had an offering, a promise, to make to the Dead, that anyone who wished to was welcome to repeat the lines after me, but that it was heavy, and they might not want to. Much to my surprise, two or three of them joined in, repeating each line without knowing what the next might be. I pray to the Silent Dead You have no voice; use my tongue to speak You have nothing not given to you; take my offerings You are with us always; let me know you I pray to the Silent Dead Which is scary, when you think about it, but that's what this August is about for me. And then I had done everything I meant to do, and they were still all staring at me. So I asked them if anyone else wanted to say anything to the Dead. That seemed to work. I performed the Invitation to the Dionysian Dead at the main ritual, too. Blessed Dead! Who walked, parched, past the river! Who found the spring of Memory! Who knew to say that you were Children of Earth and Starry Heaven! We are children of the same parents! We cannot yet come drink with you. We invite you to come and dance with us now! So that worked well for me. Sunday was wrapping up with Bakcheion and some Starry Bull stuff and...

Lampades

The Lampades, torch-bearing underworld nymphs, wandered into my dreams. Beautiful dancers without faces, limbs that bent backwards as well as forwards, draped in black and carrying the lights they're named for.* They invited me to dance with them. I think Empousa had brought them, and was hiding from me among them, but I didn't find her. *Yes, Lampades and lamp share etymological roots....

Empousa, who follows behind

clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Behind you, on the road. What is that sound? When you look, there’s nothing there, but still, the sound follows you. clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Slowly, slowly it gets closer and closer. It’s an old, old campfire story. The footsteps that sound wrong, that follow you, usually in the dark, but when you look, there's no one there. You can’t escape them, though you might be able to avoid them for a while. They’re coming for you. Eventually they’ll catch up. Empousa is an ancient Hellenic iteration of the tradition. A monster (from the Latin monstrum, that which is shown forth) of Hekate’s retinue, with hair of flame, with one donkey’s leg and one leg all of brass. A shapeshifter, though, who could come to your bed in the night and seduce you, then devour you. When she followed you on the road, you could drive her off for a while by taunting her, making fun of her. But she’ll find you in the end, if her mistress commands it. There’s no escaping her in the long run. Empousa is a creature of the roads, hunting travelers at Hekate’s will — or whim. She’s both terrifying and comical. A shapeshifter, yet unwilling or unable to shed her strange form. Inescapable — unless you drive her off by making fun of her. Why do taunts upset her so? Why, if she can change her appearance, does she keep what many would consider a deformity? Why does Hekate send her to frighten travelers at all? I’m attempting to work with some of the monsters of Hekate’s train. Empousa is the first. When I have built a relationship with her, I’ll try Lamia, and then Mormo. Eventually, the Underworld nymphs known as the Lampades. I make offerings of lavender to her, as suggested by the strophalos oracle, which also told me to accept her as a guide. I call her, invite her into my dreams, and drink dreaming teas to try to open myself. So far, I have had only one brief glimpse. I expect her to take other forms, to be a dream-lover, waiting for me to see her, and once I caught her that way, and she laughed, pleased with me. But since then, no matter how I call, my dreams remain dry. I’m patient. Eventually, I’ll find her, or she’ll find me. Empousa... I call to you, Empousa With your hair of flame With one leg of an ass And one leg of brass Relentless pursuer Shapeshifter, seducer I call to you, Empousa Come to me, and let me know you...