Tuesday & Thursday Chats: The Labyrinth!

The labyrinth, represented on our logo as the classic “Minoan” seven-circuit labyrinth, is one of our key symbols in the Thiasos of the Starry Bull.  Dense with symbolism, it stands as a shorthand for many of our tenets and beliefs, including (but not limited to):

  • The cyclical nature of self-development and liberation;
  • The circuitous and inscrutable paths we walk during the course of our lifetime (or lifetimes, if you believe in reincarnation);
  • The twisting, turning, confusing ways our souls walk the Underworld after death;
  • The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth;
  • The labyrinth of Krete, home of Asterios the Minotaur (brother to Ariadne); and
  • The various initiatory paths first trod by Dionysos.

There is a lot of fertile ground (hah!) to cover here, ranging from an intro-level discussion of why the Labyrinth is related to our path, up through musings on the connection between the Underworld, real life, dreams, and the hodgepodge of other planes/realms commonly called the “astral.”

Come an join us for a Skype chat on Tuesday at 20:30 EDT, and on Thursday at 21:30 EDT, about this deceptively simple symbol.  You must be a legal adult in your area of residence to participate in the Starry Bull Skype chats.

And if you want some extra food for thought, check out a modern Bacchic Orphic take on the Labyrinth’s story.

And speaking of things to check out, check out some Dionysian swag!  These t-shirts, white on black backgrounds, are up for sale for a pretty good price.  Each t-shirt sold not only gets YOU an awesome piece of clothing suitable for ritual use OR everyday wear, but also helps fund travel to Many Gods West for participants in a Dionysian ritual!

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Saturday Chat: Maiuma!

Hello, readers!  Just making a quick announcement about our upcoming Saturday Chat.  We will be meeting at 16:00 EDT in Skype to discuss an upcoming festival in the Starry Bull calendar–the Maiuma.

The Maiuma is a festival celebrating the union of Dionysos and Aphrodite.  While Aphrodite was not a wife of Dionysos–that position is Ariadne’s–there is a good bit of overlap between Aphrodite and Ariadne in ancient cultus, and medieval tradition mentions Bacchus and Venus as important figures in the world of the Fair Folk.

Here are some links you may find useful:

  • One of the original posts on Aphrodite’s role in the Starry Bull tradition.
  • Another post from Sannion on Aphrodite’s more frightening side (believe it or not, the original version of this essay showed up on his blog in 2012).
  • A collection of primary sources referencing the ancient Maiuma.
  • One of theheadlesshashasheen‘s posts that alludes to the vast network of connections between Aphrodite, Venus, medieval Fair Folk lore, and the Sibyl (an ancient prophetess who lived at Cumae, very close in proximity to one of the biggest centers of Dionysian worship in southern Italy).
  • A divination system you can create and dedicate to Aphrodite!

Tuesday / Thursday Chat: Syncretism and the Starry Bull Tradition

Hello, folks!  We will be holding our regular Skype chats this week on Tuesday, 21 April, at 20:30 EDT and Thursday, 23 April, at 21:30 EDT.  If you have not joined us before and wish to do so, send us a message over Facebook or here on tumblr and we can get you in to the chat.

This week, we will be talking about syncretism.  The Starry Bull tradition is itself syncretic, as it relates strongly to the traditions of Magna Graecia–the regions of southern Italy and Sicily colonized by settlers from Hellas.  Sicily in particular was a major crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean, and contained religious elements from Italy, Hellas, Carthage and the Levant Coast, Egypt, Thrace, Asia Minor, and a host of other places, and our brand of Bacchic Orphism has strong roots in Thrake and Italy in particular.

That said, the Starry Bull tradition does not wish to claim exclusivity on anyone’s religious practice–we have followers who are Hellenic Polytheists, Orphic Goetes, initiated Wiccans, devotees of Shiva, and I’ve even heard rumors of a few Kemetics (though they have not been vocal).  Dionysos being who He is, He’s ensured that this tradition can blend pretty seamlessly into the religious life of anyone who wishes to walk the Labyrinth.

If you’d like to know more, here are a few sites you can check out:

  1. Light[Ning] Illuminates: a blog run by a Dionysian who follows a Tantric Yogic approach.  (You can read one of the author’s posts about this pathhere on the Thiasos of the Starry Bull’s WordPress, too.)
  2. Sannion’s post on Shadrapa, a Phoenician Deity syncretized with Dionysos.
  3. Lykeia’s page on the syncretism of Dionysos and Vishnu.
  4. A sample of the historical syncretism between Dionysos and Sabazios.
  5. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ column about syncretism at Polytheist.com.
  6. One of Sannion’s posts on the links between John the Baptist and Orphic traditions.
  7. A post from Galina Krasskova, a friend of the Thiasos and devotee of Odin, who also includes Dionysos in her religious practice.
  8. One of theheadlesshashasheen‘s posts about the complex web of history and syncretism linking Hellenic polytheism, the Religio Romana, indigenous European faery traditions, and medieval Christianity.

Tuesday and Thursday Chats (14 & 16 April 2015): Persephone, Haides, and Plants

What flower was Persephone picking when she was taken down into the underworld?  What, exactly, does asphodel look like?  Why does Demeter say that it is “unlawful” for Her to drink wine?  Why might Haides enjoy libations of spearmint tea?

We’ll be talking this week about plants associated with the Underworld and Underworld Gods (appropriate, given this week’s upcoming Dark Moon, a time the Hellenes associated with the dead).  You may want to look into some of the plants that grow in your area–maybe you have some underworld-friendly plants where you live, or maybe you’ll find plants to include into your regional cultus of the Khthonioi!

Join the Thiasos of the Starry Bull for a Skype chat Tuesday, 14 April, at 20:30 EDT (that’s 8:30 pm EDT for those of you who don’t speak military time).  If you haven’t joined a chat before and want to be added in (or if you lost the channel, which happens to me sometimes), PM me with your Skype username or the email you used to sign up for Skype.  I’ll add you as a contact, and afterwards I can invite you to the list.

In the meantime, have some relevant links:

  • Plants Associated with Mourning. (Connotations are modern, but may be a good jumping-off point in research for local cultus.)
  • Theoi.com’s list of Important Plants in Greek Mythology, Part 1 (of special interest: Aconite, Asphodel, Crocus, Iris, Lily) and Part 2 (look for Mint, Narcissus, Pomegranate, Poplar, Violet, Willow, Yew).

Saturday Chat: Anthesphoria!

Join the Thiasos of the Starry Bull in a Skype chat at 16:00 EDT about this Sicilian festival, full of flower symbolism and surrounding the story of Persephone’s abduction.

Some suggested Anthesphoria Info and Reading Material:

Quick Facts:

  • The festival’s historical date is 12 April.
  • While celebrated primarily in Sicily, there were similar festivals held at this time of the year in the Peloponnesos of Hellas (that’s the almost-island southern bit containing Sparta).  A lot of the colonies on Sicily were founded by folks from the Peloponnesos, so the similarities are there for a reason.
  • While many different locations in the Hellenic world (e.g. the lake at Lerna, the home of the Hydra) claim to have been the location of Persephone’s abduction, Sicily built a large part of its religious practice around this myth–which makes sense, since the island is said to have been Persephone’s wedding gift!
  • Since the Starry Bull tradition follows the Magna Graecian versions of these myths, we generally honor Sicily’s claim.
  • In the Sicilian festival, which celebrated either Persephone’s return or Her hieros gamos with Haides, one of the main devotional activities was making garlands and crowns out of local flowers.  Apparently, Sicily had so many flowers that it was considered embarassing if you had to buy flowers to make your garlands!
  • One of the striking differences between this festival and the Attic Anthesteria is its inclusion of imagery surrounding the Seirenes (Sirens), who were said to have been Persephone’s handmaidens.

Suggested Reading / Viewing:

We encourage discussion on anything we’ve presented here, and we encourage you to share your own UPG, sources, or art/music recommendations!

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.

Update on the Pantheon Info

You will now notice the pantheon tab includes Resources, Prayers, Rituals; with each tab bringing up subsequent pages. Each page now includes hymns or lists of relevant deities, heroes, spirits etc.
The lists are the most up to date structured by this entry from Sannion.

There should be no more blank pages!

These pages can now include resources, links, brief info, suggested rituals. The layout is designed for easy editing so if anyone wants to contribute or add a new page it can easily be done. Right now most only include hymns.

We are looking for volunteers to add to this database, if you want to contribute feel free to send submissions to markus.gage85@gmail.com

We are looking for:

Brief introductory descriptions of deities, heroes, spirits etc.

More Hymns, prayers

Artwork

Offering suggestions

Ritual suggestions

Resources, including links to articles, blogs, books etc.

Anything you wish to add to these pages.

If you have any difficulties navigating these new tabs, or just suggestions feel to email, or leave a comment on this post, or bring it up on facebook. You know the drill.

~Markos