Arachneia the First: Plants, Dreams, Stars

On Friday night before the Arachneia (being our devotional day for the Dionysian Heroines), I braided/wove some purple yarn into a long bracelet while saying an impromptu prayer to Arachne under the stars. I had initially planned to hang this in a tree once I finished, but instead I was compelled to wear it as a bracelet as a reminder of her throughout the weekend.

Saturday was a bit of a wash.  I got very little sleep that morning in order to transition from my usual graveyard schedule.  I needed to be able to manage a 3 hour drive very early on Sunday morning to attend an herbal festival up north.  I don’t know if that’s why I ended up dreaming so vividly.  Is it better to dream at night, to receive messages from spirits and gods?  I had honestly never thought of this until now, but I’ve been doing the better part of my sleeping and dreaming during the day for the last ten years.  For the first time, I’m seriously considering the ramifications of this.  On the flip side, always being awake at night may be a boon for ritual/divinatory work and cultivating altered states of consciousness.  Regardless, on Saturday night, I had a very significant, vivid and lucid dream, which I shall type up just as I journaled it that day:

Dream of [my husband]. Heard him talking and his voice was so resonant and beautiful and familiar that it snapped me into being lucid in the dream. And when I knew, he knew that I knew. I reached for him, touched him, took him all in. I wanted to absorb every bit of him to fill in all the deepest holes of my grief, but the moment was both timeless and exquisitely not-enough at the same time. He was SO present, SO vivid, impossibly so!  How is it that it could be so hard to conjure his image, laugh and voice in waking moments, but here he was perfect?  I can’t remember everything we said, as I write this later in the day and after additional sleep, but if I’d woken right after I think I would have remembered every word. I know that he apologized, and without thinking, I told him it was okay, it’s all okay. I was desperate to reassure him so he could reassure me. (And how could it not be okay in THAT moment? It’s the moments without him that are not.) I asked him, “You’re okay, right?” It seemed a silly question (self-evident) as I asked it, but then his lack of answer made it seem more ominous. “Please tell me you’re okay.”  I can’t possibly describe everything in his expression, the way his eyes looked away for the briefest instant as if trying to insinuate a thousand things he wanted to say but could not, a soft desperation and compassion mixed with peaceful resolve.  Yet I knew without being told that I didn’t have to worry about the dream disappearing within seconds (as my lucid dreams usually do.) I knew that this time was given to us. I know he said more, I know we had some time together, maybe even a kiss, but the details are lost — there’s only the sense of a space of time and basking in his presence. Too soon, he was standing to leave. I asked him to stay, to do something more with me, and he made as if to do so, but then he said he could not – with a strain as if he was being physically pulled elsewhere. I walked with him only a few steps, and I realized as the distance between us grew that he followed two guides whom I hadn’t noticed before. Even in that moment I was grateful for our time but it could never be enough. I called after him, “I will see you again, right? Please tell me I will see you again!” This plea, like the other, went unanswered, and I realized with a pang that as much as this moment was a gift it was probably also a goodbye. 

In my next dream, no longer lucid, I looked in a sink and saw what I thought were baby king snakes, although they were too thick and too short. I picked one up to show someone, wondering if it would bite. I looked down and saw a spider crawling on my hand, then fall to the ground and walk away.  The snake bit my finger, but I kept holding it even though it hurt, and starting walking down a flight of stairs…

As you might imagine, the first dream especially colored my entire day and added a bittersweet quality to my solitude.  (The round-trip was a good six hours of driving with only myself and my ipod for company.)  Yet, if someone had offered to go with me I probably would have declined their company.  The bone tablet words which I have been least familiar with seemed an appropriate phrase to focus on today.  “Peace. War. Truth. Lie. Dionysos.”  To me, this one is the most stark, because it includes words that we tend to classify as negative – war and lie.  And since I use them as mantras of sorts, a part of me cringes at the inclusion of these words. But I started exploring it anyway.

The Native Herb Festival I attended was nice. It was all held outdoors, and the weather was very pleasant in the shade, unlike the 110 degree weather we’ve had at home.  The first class I attended was about incense-making.  Much was not new to me, but I did take some inspiration out of it, especially regarding making kyphi.  I used to think of this as overly difficult, but when she made a simple version on the spot, I felt inspired, and had an idea of making a version with wine soaked figs instead of wine soaked raisins (or both) with some pine resin and honey.  And also, using creosote (chaparral) for incense.  As much as I’ve used that plant for other sacred purposes, and recognized its resinous leaves, I don’t know why I haven’t done this yet.

The 2nd class was on kitchen witchery. There was less witchery involved, and more about mixing about what we think of us spices versus medicinal herbs in the kitchen.  I took some notes about herbal-infused honeys and simple syrups.  The 3rd class had caught my eye because it mentioned connecting with our ancestors, and it involved a sort of weaving.  It was a workshop for making rope and cord out of yucca leaves, the way that native peoples in this region would have.  It was completely hands on. We started by pounding out a yucca leaf (that had been soaked for several days) with a large smooth rock until all the fibers started to separate, then separating the fibers by hand, and then we were taught a basic weave and how to splice more fibers in so you could make it as long as you like.  It was a lot of work, but at the same time simple and remarkable that we could all end up with at least one strand of cord — which was insanely strong, by the way!  I’m still delighted by acquiring this random bit of knowledge.  A few people I’ve mentioned it to have asked if I plan to use this and what for.  Honestly, I have no idea, but I’ll figure out something.  It’s a scratchy fiber, not unlike hemp, but a friend of mine suggested treating it with beeswax and I think that’s a great idea.

At the festival there were a handful of vendors, and the arboretum itself was selling native plants in pots.  I went a little nuts and bought 6.  These were: coyote tobacco (nicotania attenuata), sacred datura, comfrey, Canyon grape (Vitus Arizonica), New Mexico Vervain (verbena mcdougalli), fringed sagebrush (artemesia frigida).

I had no idea there was an Arizona grape, or that you could cultivate datura (usually I see them die off every season in the desert). And how could I resist a nicotania that is named after Coyote?  I fully admit that my patio is getting a bit ridiculous at this point, with all the cactuses and plants.  Everything is in pots because I don’t want to plant in the yard of the rental house I’m in.

On my way home, I stopped in Sedona to have dinner. I really wanted to see the stars while I was there, so I killed some time before sunset and then found a good spot to lay some blankets out on a slope, meditate and enjoy the view of Cathedral Rock.  The spot I picked had a spider web next to it, so I figured that was a good sign.  There is also a dead tree there — a good hanging tree, I think.  I smoked an herbal cigarette and drank a kombucha beer (an actual 7% alcohol kombucha — brilliant), pouring out a good portion for libations, of course. The edginess I had felt all day had brought me here, to an edge, literally.  In this quiet, numinous place-time, I could let it come to a head.




A hyperreal state settled in, the sort where my mind rebels at the absurdity of life (absurd! absurd! absurd!) like a knock on the door, one that things on the periphery start answering to with restless movements.

The stars are slow in their reveal.  But the first sense I make of them is the corona borealis directly overhead.  I had had trouble spotting it this last year, but there it was.  I remember how when I had planned my own version of an Ariadne festival that this was my one confirming marker for placing Her festival sometime just after midsummer, because that is when the crown was highest.  I still feel that Her energy is the strongest in the summer – specifically, the height of summer and the descent into the autumn.

As it got darker, I heard a pack of coyotes yipping in the distance.  I realize my state is a bit more altered than I thought, when I feel that instead of having a sky suspended above me, that I am myself suspended above the sky.  Strapped to the earth for now, I hang, but when the earth lets me go I will fall into the heavens like a pool of water.  I see a shooting star just below the corona, and it seems to last forever.

Peace. War. Truth. Lie. Dionysos.  Eirene. Polemos. Aletheia. Pseudos. Dionysos.  εἰρήνη. πόλεμος. ἀλήθεια. ψεῦδος. Διόνυσος.  In Greek, all strung together, you’ll find it actually sounds harmonious.

I had an epiphany a couple months back, and I think I was reading Rhyd Wildermuth’s blog at the time, where I realized that even though during much of the last year I have prayed for peace, I am actually not even sure if that’s what I want.  I find myself bouncing back and forth between extremes, peaceful and emotional wreck, grounded and then ecstatic, depressed and then inexplicably happy.  Do I want peace?  No, not always.  In the thrill of these extremes, and in-between them, as difficult as the transition can be, is where I find myself, and the god…

The god who is the tension between opposites, the god who is behind the mask and is the mask.

When I eventually go to leave, I almost forget but then remember, to take off the purple bracelet and hang in on a tree with whispered thanks.  I don’t know if my dreams are true, and I still don’t know Arachne too well, and it’s a long drive home alone.  But there are innumerable stars for company.


Aridela Pantherina is a Dionysian and polytheist of no particular consequence (or perhaps too many consequences). Her passions are changeable but currently include music, dance and mushrooms.  She currently resides in the deserts of the Southwest and she looks forward to being struck by lightning.



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