Hunt Festival: Orphic Egg Hunting

Offer an egg to Dionysos.  As you place it on the altar, think about these words:

This egg contains within it an entire Cosmos,

Galaxies and nebulae in potentia, waiting to be born.

A universe swirls within this shell,

To be fertilized and give rise to new life,

Or to be dashed open and destroyed to nourish others.

Possibilities.  The egg can hatch into a chick; an apple can fall, bruised and rotting, to the ground; grain can be buried within the earth like the body of a departed loved one; and from these deaths, these ruptures, comes new life.  Perhaps the egg is broken open by a raccoon looking for an easy meal; perhaps a human picks the apple and eats it; perhaps the grain is ground to flour.  These things die to sustain the life of others.

In the Starry Bull calendar, the Hunt Festival mourns and celebrates the death of flesh to nourish and sustain other flesh.  The mainades come to mind, ripping apart the deer, killing Dionysos in order that He may be reborn anew, but we need not get so dramatic.  There is something simple about the act of consciously, knowingly, sacrificing an egg–a universe waiting to be born–to nourish ourselves and our Gods.

It is said, in the Orphic cosmogonies of mainland Hellas, that our universe began as an egg, fertilized and birthed by the serpentine intertwinings of Time and Necessity and giving rise to the Primordial Phanes–Light, Illumination, Epiphany, Being–when the egg hatched.  (I wonder how many universes never made it so far.)  Other traditions recognize this death-that-brings-life.  Christianity in particular raises them almost to the level of relics during its Festival of Deliverance: Easter is Pascha, originally from Hebrew Pesach, “Passover,” the festival of the deliverance from Egypt, though in Christianity it is the faithful who are being delivered from the tyranny of sin.

If we combine the idea of hunting for eggs–symbolically, hunting for the resurrected Lord–and the idea of the Orphic Egg, the shell inside of which is Phanes, we get an Orphic Egg Hunt.  We hide eggs about, and search for our lord Dionysos wherever we may find Him.  Here’s a basic rite that you can adapt for your own Hunt Festival this year:

You Will Need:

  • thirteen plastic eggs (or hollowed-out chicken eggs if you don’t want to use plastic)
  • a die and the Oracle of Dionysos Bakkheios
  • thirteen strips of paper that can fit into the eggs when folded
  • pen and paper
  • wine, water, and honey
  • a place to hide eggs and perform the ritual (preferably outdoors)

Preparing the Ritual:

  1. Roll the die three times to get a line from the Oracle of Dionysos Bakkheios.  Write the resulting oracular statement on one of the strips of paper and put it inside one of the eggs.
  2. Do this twelve more times until you have all the eggs filled.
  3. Hide the eggs, or have a friend hide the eggs for you.

The Ritual:

  1. Stand in the middle of the area where you will be hunting for eggs.  Invoke Dionysos and ask him to be present at your hunt, to guide you to wisdom.
  2. Pour out a triple libation of wine, a triple libation of water, and at triple libation of honey to Dionysos the Lord of Nysa, the Deities of the Starry Bull Pantheon, and the Kings and Hunters who have sought Dionysos.
  3. Pray that the results of your hunt bring only good things, since you seek Dionysos’ guidance, not to harm Dionysos as Pentheus and Lykourgos did.
  4. Sit in quiet contemplation with a pen and a piece of paper.  When you think of a question you want answered, write your question down.  Do this until you have thirteen questions.
  5. When the time feels right, go hunting for eggs.  Each egg you find answers the next question on your list.
  6. If any eggs remain unfound by the end of the egg hunt, they correspond to questions Dionysos does not want to answer at this point in time.

Possible Modifications:

  • With a ritual group: hide up to thirteen eggs per person involved in the ritual.
  • With a ritual group: hide an image of Dionysos in one of the eggs.  The person who finds Dionysos has been chosen by the God for some reason, and should be given an in-depth divination session to see if they are being given a new ritual taboo, or if they need to undergo a cleansing of ancestral miasma, or the like, depending on what the divination says.
  • With interested family members: have them write down their questions and hunt for the eggs while you act as interpreter.  (This works well with children especially.)
  • Do this ritual while under the influence of an entheogen–just make sure you have a friend to watch over you!
  • Instead of hiding eggs and seeking out answers to your own questions, hide eggs around your town for others to find.  It’s better to use hollowed-out chicken eggs for this, since they are biodegradable.  Also, make sure the eggs have a message on them, something along the lines of “Dionysos has an answer to your question.”
  • Instead of oracular phrases, put images of sacred objects inside the eggs and interpret the symbolism that shows up.
  • With a ritual group: instead of seeking answers to questions, hide eggs that contain suggestions for devotional activities easily done on site.  Set up a central shrine to Dionysos. As each person finds an egg, they come back to the central shrine and perform that devotional activity.
  • With a ritual group: instead of seeking answers to questions, choose (by divination) names of Deities and Heroes from the Starry Bull Pantheon to go into each of the eggs. The egg(s) each participant finds will show them the Deities/Heroes they should work on developing cultus for during the course of the year, until the next Hunt Festival.

As you can see, this is an easily adapted ritual, and while it can be celebrated any time of the year, it works better when the Hunt Festival takes place around Easter.  The Hunt Festival is a moveable-date one, which means that the date it falls on is determined by divination; in future years, it may take place at a drastically different time of year.

Emily Kamp is a high-school Latin teacher and part of the leadership of the Thiasos of the Starry Bull.  You can also find her on tumblr at homehearthandheart dot tumblr dot com, as well as eupheme-butterfly dot tumblr dot com.

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