November 2, 2013

After Samhain

I did not finish the second mask in time to have it on the altar for my dumb supper. That's ok, it's done now, and can go on the ancestor altar.

Little bit narrower face, narrower nose and mouth, eyes less open, mouth more open. It looks rather like she's talking -- something all of the women on both sides of my family have always loved to do.

There's an interesting piece up over here about choosing who to honor when your family has a long history of abuse, and designating people as "ancestors" of your mind or spirit.

Two small things about this, not really arguments: I have a Thing about people taking for their religious name the name of a god. It seems presumptuous, hubristic, to me. This is very much in keeping with Hellenic traditions, where there were names given that referenced the gods, but were not the names of gods: Apollonios, Dionysios, Hekataia. (Even Herakles was one of those originally, referencing Hera.) It rubs me the wrong way to actually call a mortal by a god's name, and so I tend to avoid it whenever possible. Thus, while I really like the way that blogger writes, and enjoy her blog very much, I'm not very likely to refer to her as Hecate, Daughter of Demeter. She gets to call herself whatever she wants, of course, and within many Wiccan traditions, taking a god's name or epithet as an initiatory name is perfectly acceptable. But I'm a dedicant of Hekate, and calling someone else by that name makes me wince.

The other thing is that she claims Dorothy Parker as her "older sister or wonderful aunt that [she] never had," which hits a pet peeve of mine. There are a number of awesome things to admire about Dorothy Parker: her wit, her writing, her activism later in life (she left her entire estate to Dr. King; her home is still owned by the King Foundation, and her ashes are interred there). But I think there's this tendency to ignore that she was, in fact, vicious and cruel to many people, including those close to her. There's a reason the Algonquin Round Table was referred to as the "Vicious Circle," and indeed the members referred to themselves as the "Vicious Wits". They would set out to ruin the careers of people they'd taken a dislike to. They were incredibly mean to each other, although no outsider was permitted to snipe at any member of their group. They were elitist and nasty. People who act this way towards others do not hesitate to do the same towards family. Dorothy Parker would have been a terrible older sister, and probably aunt, cruel when the mood struck her and unforgiving of faults or errors. The way people valorize her without acknowledging any of this makes me tear at my hair. The offhanded line "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses" is still tossed around as a taunt to girls and young women who do wear glasses, often by people who have no idea where the line came from, and was certainly aimed at me a few times. It's just a piece of casual cruelty that often gets quoted as clever, when honestly it's just mean and rhymes. And Parker's meanness isn't even one of those things you have to go read up on her to find out, like knowing that Tesla supporting eugenics or something. It's one of the things she famous for. She made her bones on being vicious, and was proud of it. How on earth do you ignore that?

Enough of that. I probably shouldn't have gone off about either of those things, but the first one always bugs me, and I just watched a historical movie with Parker in it that did the same thing.

<a href=>Sannion put up more than a dozen posts between the thirtieth and thirty-first, most of them of interest to me, but this one was something of a revelation for me.

One of the better-known bits from the Orphic lamellae -- golden tablet on which were inscribed instructions for joining Dionysos Chthonios at his eternal feast in the Underworld -- is the passphrase initiates offer to the guards, which is usually translated as, "I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven. My name is Starry." Sannion took a look at the Greek, and even thought he knows only a little of that language, he noticed that the last phrase was, "Ἀστέριος ὄνομα", or "My name is Asterios". Asterios is a proper name, and was indeed the personal name of the bull-headed son of Pasiphae, more usually known as the Minotaur. Ariadne was the daughter of Pasiphae and Minos who gave Theseus directions to walk the Labyrinth to kill the Minotaur, and who became the wife of Dionysos, one of the chief gods of the Orphic cult. We know that they considered him to be both Love and Death, and that their central mysteries surrounded this union.

So it seems that the way to be freed from the toil of reincarnation was to appeal to Dionysos Lyseos -- the Liberator -- and to identify oneself as the Minotaur, who was the sacrifice of the Labyrinth, imprisoned within it but fed fourteen young men and women every year for many years, and then killed by Theseus. And Ariadne is called the Mistress of the Labyrinth.

Which connects, for me, to a mystery of Hekate I found years ago. Hekate, the Underworld goddess, the psychopomp who is also a goddess of birth, who finds no pollution in either death or birth and who cleanses mortals from the contamination the other gods see in both. Hellenic religion is not usually thought of as one in which reincarnation played a large part, but it did play a part. The shades of the dead remained in the Underworld, in Tartaros until they had paid for their crimes in life, or in Asphodel until they were ready to move on, then drank from the river Lethe and were returned to the mortal world for another turn on the wheel. (The Orphic cult taught how to step off of that wheel, because mortal life was considered to be toil and sorrow, and allowed the initiate to enter Elysion, where they could feast and revel forever with Dionysos, Ariadne, and the blessed.) I believe that Hekate, as goddess of death, afterlife, and birth, is therefor goddess of reincarnation, and the mystery involved a labyrinth. To me, Hekate is also Mistress of the Labyrinth, or at least of one particular Labyrinth. So if Orphic initiates identified themselves as Asterios, who died to escape his Labyrinth, they might avoid the Labyrinth that Hekate keeps as well.

And we must not forget that Hekate, too, joins the feast, and revels with the dead, keeping the Bakchic rites with them, according to the Orphic hymn. Or that the feminine form of Asterios is Asteria, who is the mother of Hekate.

Huh. I think I need to explore this further. I may need to do a Labyrinth ritual.

My dumb supper was, well, quiet. I honored my ancestors and my dead, including my adopted grandmother Anita, both grandfathers, the great-grandmother I knew, various great-aunts and great-uncles, and my mother-in-law, who I never knew and who died when my wife was barely in her teens. I also honored Circe and Medea, as ancestresses of my tradition, in the worship of Hekate and in witchcraft. (Nasty women, especially Medea, who killed her own children, but steeped in, and creators of, the lore I pursue.) I did not honor my evil grandmother. I did not invite her. I did not put her mourning necklace on the altar, but left it in the box I keep various mementos in.

I did spend some time musing on the Asterios connection, and Hekate's Labyrinth. On rebirth, and which of my ancestors have moved on, and who might come. On whether or not I would want to step off the wheel when I die.

A quiet, contemplative ritual overall. Not at all creepy, and frankly I don't find rituals of the dead to be creepy ever, and haven't for many years. Ghosts simply don't frighten me anymore. I guess this is what happens when you spend enough time on the rituals of chthonic gods.