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....

On Prayer

Sannion has a post up on the importance and various uses of prayer. It's a good piece, and important to Starry Bull practice. He talks about why and when it's important to pray, how to choose whom to pray to, and a bit about how prayer works. He lists off the following as times it's important to pray: When we are in a crisis state or require something On behalf of someone else At the beginning or conclusion of an endeavor When something extraordinary has happened Out of simple gratitude or appreciation To get the attention of the gods Upon waking up or going to sleep When we come into contact with something that falls under the area of concern of a particular god As part of a regular devotional routine It's that last one that's most important to me, personally. Prayer is, as Granny Weatherwax might say, the soul and center of my practice. (Not that Granny has any truck with worshiping gods.) My daily prayers are the most consistent thing I do, and the most important. I often miss my moon-quarter God Nights, and miss nearly all of the festivals on the Starry Bull calendar. They simply aren't as important to me as prayer. I pray morning and night. In the morning, I pray to members of Dionysos' retinue, including gods and heroes, and then to my household gods. I say a brief prayer to each of them, and then I make offering. In the evening, I pray to the heroines of the Purple Thread, to the Hyades, to a monster, to Agathosdaimon and his wife Agatha, and to the Dead: the spirits of my household. Then I make offering to them. Incense and clean water, both morning and night. Whenever someone asks me for advice on starting a personal practice, I always advise starting with daily prayers and/or offerings. It isn't right for everyone, of course, but a simple prayer that one can recite daily, whether at meals, at waking, at sleeping, or when you do something specific, is a traditional foundation for a practice, stretching back millenia and across religious traditions. How many Christian children pray "Now I lay me down to sleep..." every night? How many ancient Greeks and Romans said prayers and poured out wine or water for the gods every morning? Prayer is simple, and it is an effective method of building relationships with gods (for most people). So I advise people: pray. Pray daily, pray when you need something, pray when you are afraid or upset, pray when you are joyful to give thanks, pray when you begin something new. Pray. You can, if you're interested, find my current set of prayers here. I try to keep it current....

Witch's Ladders

There was some discussion in the Bacchic Underground about prayer beads, so I hauled out a few sets of my old witch's ladders to show off. I could only find three of them, though I made many more, some for myself, some as gifts, some for sale. All of these are strung, but I also did a number of linked bead sets, rosary-style. The idea of the witches' ladders is from my Wiccan days. In the Farrars' A Witches' Bible, they discuss a strand of forty beads or knots called a witch's ladder, to be used for prayer, meditation and spells. I decided I wanted something rosary-like that I could use to chant prayers, and set about creating this. There is one centerpiece, nine large beads, and thirty small beads, for a total of forty. In their original Wiccan use, I would pray on small beads for the blessings of the Maiden, Mother and Crone, or those of the Sun God, Corn God and Horned God. On the large beads, I would name a specific goddess or god whose blessings I wanted. I began and ended on the centerpiece with a prayer of purpose. These days I use them for anything in three or four parts that I want to repeat. I might pray to Hekate of the Ocean, Hekate of the Earth, and Hekate of Starry Heaven. I might invoke Dionysos to come on bull's hoof, panther's paw and snake's belly. Athena of the Spindle, Athena of the Dyepot, Athena of the Loom, Athena Pantekhne. They can be used to fill many needs. The rhythm is soothing. The first picture is one in amber and jet (witch's stones, according to the Farrars) with a bone centerpiece, carved with knotwork. Now it hangs with my devotional weaving for Athena, because the thread its strung on was some of my own early spinning. The second is a grapevine of glass beads, with leaves for the small beads and grape clusters for the large ones, and is dedicated to Dionysos. The centerpiece I originally had on it (a tine, and very delicate, glass amphora) broke, and I haven't found another one yet, so there's just a silver ring to hold one. The third is sodalite and freshwater pearls with a dragon centerpiece, dedicated to a water dragon spirit I used to work with. Now it hangs on my Ocean altar. These were the ones that were easiest to find. Somewhere, there's one for Aphrodites with cloisonné rose beads, one meant for the Serenity Prayer in Swarovski crystal (a gift for a relative). One made of bone beads carved like skulls for Hekate. I made one of seeds and horn for a friend once, fifteen years ago, and he may still use it, for all I know. We've fallen out of touch. I've lost count of all the ones I made. I'm still very fond of the design, and still make new ones occasionally. I should really make one for the Dead, and a new one for Hekate....

Ariadne prayer

For daily morning prayers, which makes for three separate prayers to Ariadne. I pray to Ariadne Who shows us the way to change To find courage after despair I pray to Ariadne of the Labyrinth...

How to begin with the Purple Thread

Many people find it difficult to begin to worship a new god/hero/group of them. But beginning with the Purple Thread is pretty easy. First, get some purple thread. If you're a spinner, as I am, you spin it. As you do so, recite the prayers from the last post on the Thread. When you prepare to spin, say: Seven women whose lives are twined In history and myth Seven women whose names are wrapped In purple thread Seven women whose lives show Our weaknesses and our strengths Seven women I honor and praise: The women of the purple thread. Then begin to spin. Since I'm a drop spinner, I give the spindle a good flick and spin as it drops, saying: I spin for Arakhne, Who rues what she did, And weaves now forever I pray to Arakhne of the Purple Thread When I wind up that length, I almost sing, "The Purple Thread winds on and on, the Purple Thread winds on," which after a while, combined with the spinning and the rest of the prayers, puts me into a light trance. You can do all your spinning for one day for one member of the Thread and go through them all over the course of a week, or run through them all one after the other on one day. When you finish, and have plied if you wish, and have washed and set it, move on to the next step. The rest is the same whether you spin or not. Take a length, which can be as short as enough for a bracelet or as long as enough to circle a room, of purple embroidery floss, cord, or yarn (don't use sewing thread, it's too fine). Tie a knot, or string on a bead and knot it in place, for each of the seven. (It may help to have each of them be unique somehow, for future use.) This will thread serve as meditation or prayer beads. Knot the ends together. At first, all you'll want to do is to pray the prayers, and to contemplate the heroines and goddesses. Take the time to read about them. I use the prayers in my daily ritual, with one member of the Thread each day, starting on Sunday with Arakhne and finished on Saturday with Kirke. I think that's enough to begin with....

The Purple Thread again

I was telling a friend about the Purple Thread over on Dreamwidth, and realized that a) I didn't have a good explanation of the whole shebang here, and that my prayers here are out of date. Time to fix that! Summary of the Purple Thread as written up for my friend: My Purple Thread cultus revolves around a set of seven women, demi-goddesses, and minor goddesses linked together by certain themes. The Hanged Maiden is one, as is the Wronged Maiden. The Thread progresses upward until, at its far end, it finds its epitome in Kirke (Circe), who is never overcome. The thread starts with Arachne, who rues what she did. In some versions, she hanged herself and was resurrected by Athena before asking for penance, and certainly she hangs by threads forever now. Patron of the over-proud who learn humility, and of weavers. Next is Erigone, Beloved of the Vine. Her father Ikarious was the first mortal to whom Dionysos taught to cultivate grapevines and to make wine. When he shared his first batch with his neighbors, they didn't know to water the wine, and became very drunk and passed out. Their families, finding them, thought that they were dead, and fell upon Ikarios and murdered him. When young Erigone found him dead, she hanged herself from a tree. Her loyal dog then cast herself into a well and drowned. Dionysos, returning from a ramble only just too late, finding them all dead, set them each in the stars, as Boötes, Virgo, and Canis Minor. He also drove the villagers mad and set all their daughters to hanging themselves from trees until they made amends, and ever after that city held a propitiatory rite in which young girls swung on ropes tired to trees, and tied ribbons, cups and dolls to dangle from branches. Patron of suicides and those with depression, and of the bereaved. Now comes Ariadne, Mistress of the Labyrinth, before her apotheosis. She helped Theseus to murder her brother Asterion, the Minotaur (the murder itself a necessary mystery); she loved her monstrous brother. Theseus betrayed her and left her on the shore while she slept. When she awakened alone and abandoned, she too hanged herself. Dionysos came along and saw how lovely she was, and resurrected her and made her a goddess, and by now she has left her thread. Ariadne was of distantly divine heritage, distant enough to make her immortal. Patron of those who dare the labyrinth and walk strange roads. Now comes Helen, Lady of Sorrows, who speaks for the Silenced (including the first three of the Thread). After the Great War, few stories are told of her. Menelaus took her home as spoils of war, but set her aside, and sent her into seclusion. Perhaps she, too, hanged herself, and was granted access to the Isle of the Blessed, where she ruled beside the likewise-apotheosized Herakles, now freed from the Hera-inflicted madness that drove him to kill those he loved. Or perhaps she escaped, and wandered the world, and helped women, and ended none knows where. Perhaps Aphrodite or Athena, impressed by her strength, apotheosized her without death, and sent her back to continue her work. She is a patron of abused women. Then Cassandra, beloved and cursed. You know her story. She, too, was taken as spoils of water, and mistreated, and of her many ends are told, but not one is true. She is not an active patron as Helen is, but go to her for prophecy and advice, and be very sure you listen well. Now Medea, betrayed and vengeful, and we start to reach for greater power, a women's power on her own. Cousin to Ariadne, she, too, turned against her family for a pretty man's face, and left, and was abandoned. Not content to be set aside, not even considering suicide, she struck back instead. She is fully divine, though as distantly as Ariadne, and may or may not have died at all. She is patron of women who seek vengeance. And finally Kirke, full goddess in her own right, who used men as she saw fit, and was not devastated when one she loved left her. She studied with her cousin Hekate (as did Medea), and learned secrets of magic, of necromancy and transformation, and much more, and kept her own counsel and no other's. She is patron of women who take up all the power they can. ("Women" here is loosely defined. Anyone who identifies even part-time as a woman or a feminine person qualifies, and they can certainly choose to act as patron to anyone they damn well please as well. You may find that some of them also have genderqueer connections. I have not looked for any.) Current prayers: Seven women whose lives...

How to Begin

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely. But how? is what I hear many people new to paganism, to polytheism, to magic, and more, asking. How do I begin? Where is the beginning? There are so many books out there that purport to, or at least imply that they do, have the One True Way. All of these things to read, all of them telling readers How It Must Be Done. It's ridiculous, and overwhelming, and it scares people off. Begin now. Don't wait for things to be perfect, because they will never be perfect. If you wait to begin praying until you have all these fancy tools and altars and statues and ritual garb, you won't begin, because there will never be enough of it. There's always something else to have, forever. If you wait for it to be perfectly silent before you meditate, you will never meditate, because unless you have an anechoic chamber handy, there is no perfect silence. Pick something, anything, to do, and do it. Do it again, and again, and again. Keep doing it until it's habitual to do it. That's a regular practice. Ready for more? Pick something else to do, and do that, too. Begin where you are. There is literally no place else you can begin. Very few people can meditate for more than a minute or two at a time to start. Very few people can get every visualization on the first try. It's ok if you're not one of the very few. You are where you are, you can do only as much as you can do. So today, do what you can do today. Do that again tomorrow, and the next day. After a while, the amount that you can do today will feel easy. That's when you stretch it. Meditate for two minutes instead of one. Keep beating your drum for an extra four-count. Whatever it is, try for a little more. But don't get mad at yourself for not being able to do it every time. That's useless. It will stop you from doing anything. Begin simply. Whatever you pick to begin with, let it be simple. One kind of meditation, one prayer, one offering, one deck of tarot cards. Don't needlessly multiply things. There are so many cool things out there that it's tempting to jump in to as much as possible as fast as possible. But this way lies burnout. There is time and time and time, and you can study anything you want, because there is time. But for now, begin with just one thing. Begin with what makes sense. This is brand new to you. A lot of it won't make sense. You have plenty of time to learn, to come to understand. For now, start with the things that already make some sense to you. There's depth beneath them, more than you realize, and you'll learn about that in time, too. But the best way to learn it is by doing it. So don't put off doing while you read more and more books, trying to understand everything before you begin. Begin now, where you are, with something simple, that makes sense at a basic level. And then go from there. Unlike the White Rabbit's verses, there is no end to stop at. There is time to get to it all, eventually. If you practice, you will gain skill and confidence, understanding. You'll gain it at your own rate, not anyone else's. You have your whole life to learn it, your whole life to get there. Be as patient with yourself as you can be....

Updates to the Starry Bull week

For more than a year and a half now, I've been keeping a weekly cycle of prayers in the Starry Bull tradition. I like it. It works well for me, and along with my prayers to the Hyades and the Purple Thread, gives me a pattern, a backbone for my daily practice. A while back, the original Thiasos of the Starry Bull was dissolved. Now the tradition is in the process of being reborn. Which is cool to participate in, but it does mean some things are changing and being updated. For example, the weekly calendar has been changed. The Heroes and Heroines share a day now, and the rest of the Retinue of Dionysos has its own day. I actually really like this particular change. For a while, I had four days of the week with two verses to recite, and three days with only one verse, which felt very unbalanced to me. The new schedule allows me to correct that imbalance, by giving the Nymphs and Satyrs each a verse of their own, where they used to share one, and then dividing the rest of the Retinue into two overlapping groups. It gives me new things to think about, too. I like to store my prayers here, so I can find them easily. Maybe someone else will find them interesting, too. Sunday: I pray to Dionysos Who liberates and saves us Who offers an eternal feast to those who know the Mystery I pray to Dionysos, who is the Starry Bull I pray to Apollon Who runs with wolves Who knows and who tells I pray to Apollon of the Starry Bull Monday: I pray to Persephone The Iron Queen of Erebos Who welcomes and transforms the reveler I pray to Persephone of the Starry Bull I pray to Melinoe She of the double nature The light in the darkness and the dark in the light I pray to Melinoe of the Starry Bull Tuesday: I pray to Ariadne Who guides the way to the Starry Bull, And returns from under the earth I pray to Ariadne of the Starry Bull I pray to Aphrodite She who brings together what is separate Who inspires the action of the night I pray to Aphrodite of the Starry Bull Wednesday: I pray to Hermes Of the staff and the fleet feet Who guides us down and sets our feet on the path I pray to Hermes of the Starry Bull I pray to Hekate Who brings the Dead to the feast Who dances in revels lit by her torches I pray to Hekate of the Starry Bull Thursday: I pray to the Heroes Those who have walked these paths before And feast forever at our Lord’s side 
I pray to the Heroes of the Starry Bull I pray to the Heroines 
Who have sorrowed before us 
And will rejoice beside us when we follow 
I pray to the Heroines of the Starry Bull Friday: I pray to the Band Above Who swirl around him in the open air To dance and drink in mortal lands I pray to the Band Above of the Starry Bull I pray to the Band Below Who revel in dark caverns To welcome shades to the Dry Lands I pray to the Band Below of the Starry Bull Saturday: I pray to the Nymphs Who welcome him to mountain and to spring Their songs filling the air sweetly I pray to the Nymphs of the Starry Bull I pray to the Satyrs Who follow him through fields dark and light Their hooves drumming a beat on the earth I pray to the Satyrs of the Starry Bull I'm particularly pleased with a couple of aspects of the new verses. Nymphs are, for the most part, spirits of particular places -- of this spring, that tree, the mountain over there, the mouth of this river where it empties into the sea. And so they welcome Dionysos into their places. Not that they can't and don't travel with him, but they are also already in their own places when he arrives. Satyrs, too, are earth-spirits, but are less place-focused. They tend to be associated more with agricultural and/or seasonal cycles, with rhythms. And so they follow him, and they drum. For the Band -- and finding that one word took as much time as writing all the rest; retinue was too long for the form, and I had to test out three or for others before I decided I liked the alliteration of Band Above and Band Below, and liked the implication of wandering more broadly -- I wanted the strong images of above-ground and below-ground, of sun and trees and open air, and of vast dark spaces where the Dead are, of Life and...

A Few More Verses

I thought I'd put up a few of the verses I'm most pleased with. I pray to the Hekataian Dead To the Keepers of Secrets And the travelers in the Dark May you find the path out of the Labyrinth I pray to the Hekataian Dead I pray to the Kindly Dead You who watch over the living You who still love the quick May they know and love you too I pray to the Kindly Dead I pray to the Unjustly Dead Killed for crimes you did not commit Because they needed someone to blame May your innocence be known I pray to the Unjustly Dead I pray to the Stolen Dead Taken as property from your families and people Shipped across the sea, dying in bondage May you rest in power and honor I pray to the Stolen Dead I pray to the Shoah Dead Crowded into trains and camps Tortured and slaughtered for your fidelity May your One God hold you I pray to the Shoah Dead I pray to the Queer Dead Beaten and killed for hatred of your love Thrown out to starve on the streets We fight on in your names I pray to the Queer Dead I pray to the AIDS Dead Who died of neglect, of ignorance Who died withered and drained We still seek a cure in your name I pray for the AIDS Dead I pray to the Trans Dead Whether you were warriors Whether you only wanted to live as yourself We will speak your true names I pray to the Trans Dead...