March 29, 2014

Delays and problems

Personal matters have badly delayed… well, everything in my life. Some of it miserable, some of it potentially very good for the future. We’ll see.

Anthesteria… did not go as expected. For my first day, I covered my usual altars and set up a new space. I got out the stable from <a href=>creche set, and set it up as the Boukoleion, the “ox shed”* temple in which the queen of Athens was joined in sacred marriage to Dionysos. Fourteen priestesses presided over this ritual, and only they and the queen knew what mysteries took place within. I took a stone figure of a kneeling woman, which used to be an altar piece, and crowned her queen, and put her in the stable with my Dionysos figure and phallos (a ceramic piece made by the marvelous Sherry Kirk, who did a very small run of them for a very select number of people some years ago), framed it in a grapevine wreath, and covered it, because those are mysteries to which I am not privy. I connect the fourteen priestesses to the nurses of Dionysos, although no source gives that number for them, and I think the fertility aspect is significant, so I thought it was important to commemorate this mystery, even if it could not be enacted.

Another thing I find important is the community aspect of the festival, so I planned a few things with friends who, while they do not necessarily worship the same gods I do, are of similar minds. The idea was for my friend Steph to join me for the opening and watering of the wine, to drink and dance and drum in company on the first night. For the second day, the plan was to meet up with Steph, her nine-year-old daughter, and our (very gothy) friend Jilli, for the Aiora, to swing in commemoration and appeasement of Erigone. My drinking that night was supposed to be alone, to stand for the drinking competition where each man (precisely) drank from his own pitcher, instead of a communal one, alone even among his people. The third day, of course, was intended as a day of purification and offering to Hermes.

Well, I got the first part done. Steph and I drank and danced and drummed until late in the night. I went to bed as soon as she left, being out of sleeping pills and wanting the wine to help me sleep. Apparently, my prayers that the wine use of the drug might be harmless were not thorough enough. I woke up after four hours with a nasty hangover, which turned into a migraine, and I didn’t sleep again until late afternoon. Perforce, my Aiora plans were cancelled, since I could neither drive nor stand sunlight. Since Steph and I had drunk all the wine (I couldn’t afford much, and had meant to save back a bottle from the first night, but, um, hadn’t), and really I wasn’t in much shape to do more drinking, I didn’t have more than a symbolic sip of port. Still in terrible shape on the third day, and facing the beginning of those personal matters, I managed prayers to Hermes and shooing the keres out of the house, but not even panspermia as offering.

To some extent, I feel like I failed in this holiday. I did not do all the things I planned to do, did not keep the full rites, not even those I found most important for myself in my research. But I know that in ancient Athens, while it was a holiday for everyone, levels of participation must have varied. Very few were priests or priestesses and performed full rites. Most people would have attended some but not all of the public ceremonies and celebrations. And while I am a maenad, and dance the ecstatic rites of Bacchus, I am not a temple priestess of Dionysos. It may be that my Anthesteria was appropriate for my role, and for my first experience with this holiday. Next year, I’ll try for something more elaborate, but for this year I have to try to be content with, or at least accepting of, the experience that I had.

*There are a number of terms associated with the worship of Dionysos that are related here. The temple, of course, and one of the chief priests of Dionysos was called Boukolos, which is usually translated as oxherd. But in English, an ox is a castrated male beef animal. I somehow doubt that anything that serve Dionysos the Bull is intended to be castrated. Instead, I suspect that the original is a gender-neutral term for beeves, something which English lacks in the singular, other than “beef” or “beef animal,” and that “ox” is used because the terms usually used for sheds that house them and people who heard them use “cow” instead, and that that was deemed even more inappropriate by translators. I really should look that up at some point.