So, last Saturday I did my second blood offering to the Dionysian Dead.
The first time was a bit clumsy, this time was a little less clumsy. So I’m not an expert here by any means, just sharing my experience since it seems that others might be a bit hesitant to do this. Forgive the lack of poetry, but I am anxious to get this down.
Background: I have done some basic ancestor work in the last year, and have honored the dead at appropriate festivals (Samhain, Anthesteria) but other than this, no special experience in working with the dead. But my husband died unexpectedly last May, so that experience, both coping with the grief and conceptualizing the afterlife, has brought me close to the edge, so to speak. And even the Anthesteria before he died there were signs that I should start focusing more on the dead. I wouldn’t do intense work with just any wandering dead, because that’s more than I’m prepared to deal with, but I feel that when it comes to the Dionysian dead in particular, that Dionysos is going to be the the mediating presence. I trust him.
What I gathered: paper, pencil, single blade razor, isopropyl alcohol, paper towels, bandaid, pine resin salve, a vessel for burning (like a small cauldron), other usual ritual accoutrements, tobacco and whiskey for offerings, music
Practical side: Cutting yourself on purpose is harder than you think it’s going to be. It just is. And probably not for everyone for a variety of reasons. But I feel like for me it’s doable and just something I’m trying to figure out the best method for. A knife was too clumsy and hard to control, and the single razor I used was difficult to get a decent depth of cut with, so I’m not wed to a particular method yet, although the razor was better. Obviously, be careful and smart about it. I especially like the idea of using pine resin salve afterwards, though, if you can get or make some. It’s a good healer and pine is associated with Dionysos, so it’s protective in a spiritual AND antimicrobial way.
I called upon Dionysos first, and asked him to bring his blessed dead and be the intermediary. Then I called upon the Dionysian dead themselves, praised them and asked them to be present, to dance with me and receive my offerings.
For those of you that read and discussed Philostratus’ On Heroes a little while back, you might remember this bit:
To be cleansed of the body is the beginning of life for divine and thus blessed souls. For the gods, whose attendants they are, they then know, not by worshipping statues and conjectures, but by gaining visible association with them. And free from the body and its diseases, souls observe the affairs of mortals, both when souls are filled with prophetic skill and when the oracular power sends Bacchic frenzy upon them.
The last sentence in particular jumped out at me. What this says to me is that not only must we be in an altered or frenzied state to interact with the spirits of the dead, but the dead and/or the heroes must be brought into a frenzy as well in order to interact with us. There is a meeting in between, perhaps. In other words, we must do some work to alter or raise their spiritual vibrations and our own to similar frequencies. What does this mean? From what I can guess… Give them energy, and specifically, energy that is reciprocal and flows between the realms — offerings of food or drink, music, and things that bring you into altered states of consciousness (dance, wine, chanting, etc.) used with intention. The blood offering itself no doubt does this as well, but since I wanted the blood to be a gift and not the tool (if there’s a difference), I chose to play music and dance first.
Once I felt good about the energy raised, I sat down to do the blood offering. I took a small piece of paper and wrote a spontaneous prayer to the Dionysian dead. I read it aloud. And I took the razor and made a couple cuts on my left thumb. I pressed the blood into the paper. I hand-rolled a cigarette of organic tobacco and blew tobacco smoke onto it. And then I burned the paper. Sprinkled some alcohol into the flames. Blood and breath, earth and fire and spirit.
And then I danced some more. I had this mix of music that went from Hellblinki to the Doors. After I settled down, I decided to use the Oracle of the Doors to see how my offering was received. Which is where things got interesting. The first response I got was:
You’re lost little girl.
Um, okay. That could be negative. Am I totally on the wrong track? But then, that particular Doors lyrics just played so maybe it’s a playful acknowledgement. To further clarify:
Don’t worry, the operation won’t take long and you’ll feel much better in the morning.
Hmmm, enigmatic, but positive hints toward the future and possibly the operation being the blood offering itself. One more:
Go out and buy a brand new pair of shoes.
Okay, this one REALLY got my attention. Bizarrely, I had been shoe shopping all day, trying to find a pair of shoes to go with a particular dress, and did not have any luck. In fact, just before I did this ritual I had a long rant to my mom about how I couldn’t find the right shoes and didn’t even know what the right shoes would even look like, because my qualifications and the dress itself are so particular. So are they saying they were with me, watching me, while I was shopping today….?
Being tipsy and feeling like I was being played with, I said “No, really! How was my offering received?” And got:
it’s how it has to be
Okay. I could deal with that.
The next day, I went to an appointment and then found myself with some free time before I had to get ready for dinner with a friend. So I hit a Goodwill and looked for shoes again, bought a pair that pinched my toes but probably wouldn’t look awful. I gave up and started to head home. On my way, I missed a turn I would have taken if I’d been paying more attention, but then the next turn I took I saw another Goodwill where I didn’t know there had been one. Well, why not? It wasn’t until that moment where I had pretty much given up again that I saw them. THE PERFECT PAIR OF SHOES. Even just seeing them on the shelf I’m sure I said, “No way!” under my breath and then, “But I bet they don’t have the sort of heel I want.” But, they did. The particular shade of brown, the pattern on the shoes that would offset the pattern on the dress, it was so fucking unlikely that my heart was pounding when I checked the size and tried them on. Just a tad too big, but that would be a piece of cake to deal with!
Shoes may seem like a really silly thing to get excited about, there is more to it… The dress that they needed to go with? Belonged to my husband. (And yes, he looked really great in it.) And I have been planning for months to wear it in remembrance of him, to the concert of a musician we both love, whom he never got a chance to see. So even in this girly, silly detail was this really special significance to me, and to the dead. There is no doubt in my mind that they were an unexpected gift to acknowledge my gift. I am overwhelmed at this, and the immediacy and reality of it.
I don’t think pictures do them justice, but here it is…
Aridela Pantherina is a Dionysian and polytheist of no particular consequence (or perhaps too many consequences). Her passions are changeable but generally include music, dance and hierobotany. She currently resides in the deserts of the Southwest and she looks forward to being struck by lightning.