Festival Plans

My husband worships Perun, a slavic God.  Because of this, I spent some time researching Slavic polytheism so that I could offer some basic hospitality to this God that is a part of my household.  During this time, I came across the God Yarilo.  Even though I had never worshiped Dionysus, Yarilo made me think of Him.  I pushed it to the back of my mind, but every time I came across Yarilo’s name, I thought of Dionysus.  I’m uncomfortable with things that appear to be “soft polytheism” and even syncretism can be hard for me, so I left it be.  Then, I came across Dver’s post about her festival cycle and she mentions that in her practice, she celebrates two festivals that syncretizes the two deities.  While I know that I shouldn’t look to others about what is “ok” in terms of worship, this did make me feel better about connecting the two Gods in my head.  This year, I’ve decided to follow my instincts and attempt to celebrate Yarilo’s Funeral.  I like Dver’s placement of the festival of on August 19th to coincide with the Roman Vinalia, and have decided to keep that date as well.  I also made sure to look up when the grape harvest occurs in my local area (Aug. 15-Sep. 20), and the dates works well on that level too.

I have a couple weeks to make a plan and prepare for the festival.  I feel especially drawn to it this year as we head into autumn.

Advertisements

Lenaia 2017

Lenaia 2017

The Lenaia was in early January, and while I did the write up at that time, I forgot to publish it until now.  Better late than never?

A few days before the festival, I went to a large wine and liquor store near my home and wandered around for nearly half an hour, looking at wine labels, reading ingredients, fending off helpful sales people until I found two bottles of wine that sang to me as being perfect for the occasion.  I just kept Dionysus and the basics of the festival in mind while I looked around.  I ended up with these two:

16111798_1496367150391281_1273469795_n

Intrinsic, a red wine, I picked for the vibrant dancing woman who made me instantly think of the Maenads.  Iter, a white wine, I picked for the spiral image because of labyrinth and underworld connections.

 

Day One: I started the night with a shower and clean clothes.  I picked a bright green dress with flowers and vines on it because it made me think of new growth and the plants awakening after the winter.  Plus, it’s a dress that always makes me think of Dionysus in general.  I did the egg cleanse, and then followed that by the normal khernips cleansing method (including sprinkling the water around the ritual area). I laid out offerings of milk, honey, and cold clean water (in a small skull bottle).

16144763_1496367310391265_211688943_n

 

I donned a mask:

16144805_1496381450389851_33252540_n

I performed a ritual, something I’m still new and uncomfortable with.  I prayed and called to Dionysus spontaneously (because I forgot to have anything prepared) and rang bells and drummed intermittently.  Then, I played a short four song playlist I had made before hand, all with songs that had a dancing beat and lyrics that in some way made me think of Dionysus and Maenads.  I danced and sang, praying and beating a small drum throughout.

 

Day Two:  I attended a play.  I went to support a friend in the cast, and the date lined up perfectly to make it a devotional activity.  It was a new play from a local play write so I had no way of knowing how perfectly Dionysian the experience would be.  The story was about a baker who was terrified of change.  The play opens just after her assistant had died, therefore infecting the bakery with “miasma”.  The baker becomes more obsessed with her fear, to the point of insanity.  She’s having delusions, both of things she wants to be happening and things she doesn’t.  Eventually, one of her own cakes comes to life to tempt her and convince her to embrace the madness, and embrace change.  The show ends with her accepting the inevitable and leaving the bakery (a sign of her acceptance).  It spoke to me a great deal and so far is the most religious experience I’ve ever had at the theater.  Once I got home, I poured a large wine offering, I lit candles and incense.  Again, I rang bells and called the God in song and prayer and praise.

Day Three:  To be honest, I was out of ideas at this point of how to keep things going, so it was a much simpler day.  I basically did a scaled down version of the first day, with the same offerings.

 

Overall, its the most I’ve ever done for a festival and I enjoyed it a lot.  It was truly one of my first real experiences of Dionysus and something I will treasure for a long time.

Remembering the Dead

I meant to be posting more about my dead, but time has seemed to get away from me lately.  Today I want to make a short post about my great great uncle, Charles Comito.  I never met him, of course.  He died in 1944, when my own grandmother was a little girl.

In January of 1943, at the age of 22 or 23, Charles enlisted in the army as a Warrant Officer.  I’m not sure when he actually left for training or how long he was in the army.  A lot of this information is family hear-say from my grandmother.  Since she was a child at the time and her memory isn’t great now, it’s all kind of murky.  Anyway, the story is that he went to New York for training before deployment.  During that time, he died.  I’ve been told from family that it was either A) an allergic reaction to a vaccination or B) an untreated illness of some sort.

The reason I’m writing about him is because no matter how he died, he died at about 24 years old.  He wanted to fight for his country and he died doing that, even if it isn’t in the way most soldiers go.  He wrote poetry for his mother and sent it home to her while he was away.  It reveals someone who seemed kind, and sweet.  My great grandmother, his sister, used to write him a letter every single week.  He died in June but it took a while for my family to find out that he had passed away, so she kept writing to him over July and into August of ’44.  Her unopened letters where returned with his things.  I think another reason I’m drawn to give him mention and honors by name in ancestor work is because  I was able to read them once, and it was so clear how much she loved him.  The last letter she sent him, the final lines read something like “We haven’t heard from you in a while, and you know how Mom worries.  Please try to give us a call or a letter soon.  We miss you.  Love, Mary” and it absolutely broke my heart.  He has no descendants and no one else to remember him.

So here’s to you Charles Comito.

beb8c7a2-9b0a-4c5a-9d19-6c6dce8c1f7d

Remembering my Dead

Although October is the more traditional month for the dead, at least by American cultural standards, its only been in the last week that I’ve been really feeling them.  So, as the feeling strikes me, I’m going to be sharing some stories and photos of my dead.  It seems as though I should speak of my ancestors first, but instead, I’ll be talking about an old friend.

I had a rough childhood and no friends until middle school.  I fell in with a group of girls who really helped me through middle and high school.  We were a tight knit group for most of that time, only drifting away or breaking away between sixteen-eighteen.

Avery was the friend I wanted to be.  She was incredibly smart, funny, cute, and a talented artist.  She was weird and spontaneous, and had appetite for life coupled with a lack of fear that I’ve always craved.  She experimented with different hair and clothing styles, changing her whole look every few weeks.  Avery was restless and wanted to break free of our boring Iowa life.  She used to tell me, even then, that she wanted to “live fast and die pretty”.  Around sixteen, she fell into drugs.  Acid and heroine, right out of the gate.  As the child of an addict, that wasn’t something I could be around so we drifted apart.  She lost full ride scholarships and dropped out of school. She continued to party, to make art, to burn herself down.

Avery burned away her mind and within a couple years, the girl I knew was completely gone.  It was devastating.  Even so, during that time, on the rare occasion we saw each other, she was always kind to me.  After high school ended, I think we only spoke three times.  Once on the phone and twice online.

Early in June of 2013, she reached out on facebook and commented on an old picture of us together.  She chatted with me, told me that she never forgot my kindness or our friendship.  Two days later, she took her own life.  June, the birth month we shared.  She (we) had just turned twenty six years old.  I didn’t know her past sixteen, but I loved her and in the end, she remembered that she loved me.

She was the first of my dead to contact me, to reach out and guide me to start worshiping the dead/my ancestors.  She has guided me away from making a terrible life decision.  I think she’s happy on the other side, and finally free.  It still pains me that life was so hard for her and that she took the path she did, but I try to be happy for the peace she found.

998618_468782749882591_1265668315_n

Her art.  Her obituary.

Katabasia

For now, I am exploring a relationship with Dionysus and his retinue, especially as He appears in The Thiasos of the Starry Bull.  In an effort to better understand some of his aspects, I’ve decided to low-key celebrate some of his festivals.  Last Thursday (10/27/16) was the Katabasia, commemoration of Dionysus’ decent into the underworld to bring up his mother Semele.  Sharing his divinity with her, she becomes a goddess.

Since I’m aiming for low-key right now, so I didn’t do much.  I took a cleansing bath, dressed in the black dress I wore to my grandmother’s funeral.  I had set up the altar before hand, so it was mostly ready to go when I came down stairs.  I played some music while I read some hymn and poems to Dionysus and Semele.  I lit a candle for the occasion and some incense,  I offered wine (Apothic Inferno), mead (Charm City Rosemary mead- rosemary chosen because Semele is the grand daughter of Aphrodite), milk, and honey.  I’m not sure that if the wine and mead were well received or not, but I probably won’t be using them again.  Just a feeling.   The rosemary mead especially (unless the I get a big sign that They loved it)- the smell alone was off putting.  Taking a sip almost ended the ritual because of almost puking.  So, yeah.  I took a moment and moved on from that.  I prayed and danced and drank wine for a while, then sat in contemplation of Dionysus, Semele, and the myths involving Dionysus’s birth and Semele’s death.  I have a mental picture of how I’d like to try to paint a statue of Her, so I’ll be thrifting around to find one that works (I’m just starting to try art, making a sculpture is too advanced for me right now).

So anyway, I wasn’t particularly feeling as connected as I wanted to be feeling, so I went on walk around the block.  It was probably about 12:15 AM, and I live in a decent area so it was no big deal.  While I was walking, nothing much happened except I kept smelling some kind of flower, I think.  It was overpoweringly strong.  Kind of like honey suckle, but not quite.  I looked around for the source, tried to follow my nose, etc., but came up with nothing.

I got home and prayed a little more and ended the festivities.  No big revelations, and nothing  really interesting to report, but I’m glad I did it.  I’m really trying to focus on easing in, building up kharis with these Gods that have been pulling me towards them.  Hail Dionysus!  Hail Semele!

The Book of Life (movie)

I want to bring to light books, movies, and shows that have polytheist and/or ancestor worship themes or even “feels”.  First up, the children’s movie “The Book of Life”.

On the surface, the movie is about a would-be musician who is afraid to stand up to his father about who he is/want he wants in life.  At the same time, he and his childhood best friend vie for the love of the same woman.  Two Gods make a bet about who the woman will marry, the ruler-ship of their own portion of the land of the dead as the prize. Those first two plots are fine, especially acknowledging that since its a children’s movie, certain things have to be a little more on the nose.  I think a deeper, more meaningful plot hangs around in the background until the end of the movie, where it takes center stage.

The movie opens to a scene that shows families at the grave yard, making offerings to their dead and explaining why that is important.  Ancestor worship, the Gods, and the land of the dead are at the heart of the story.  By the end, “being true to yourself” and the love triangle plots are set aside in favor of saving their town- not just to save human lives, but because without those living humans to remember the dead and make offerings, the ancestors will lose access to a blessed afterlife.  That’s the plot point I was blown away by- the dead were more important than the living.

As a parent who is raising a polytheist child, I love having media to show her some of these points.  After seeing this movie, ancestor worship became much easier for her to understand because she was able to see it in some way.  It was no longer just something mom said/did, but something others did as well.