Monday, October 15, 2012

Cakes & Dread Goddesses & The Dead

Hekate, Hermes, Heracles & Cerberus. Stolen from Theoi.

 I caught a link to Manx Wytch's Shrines and Cakes and Silence post (via Rachel) and it is a damn fine post. I always enjoy seeing appropriate references to the Mighty Dead, and I know very little about practices that come off the Isle of Mann. Thus it's always an enjoyable experience for me to read about such customs.

In fact, that's a part of the post I wanted to highlight:
On Mann, a custom for communing with the Ancestors was the consuming of Soddag Valloo (Dumb Cakes). The general custom took place during Hop Tu Naa (November 11th but now celebrated on October 31st) however the rite itself was performed at any point the Witch desired. The cakes were made during the day with a base mixture of flour, eggs complete with ground shell, salt and ashes and could be considered a form of bannock. Other ingredients were often added by the Witch to give further potency to the cake, mindful that the cakes were actually consumed.

What I'm about to say is mostly due to the differences in the use of cakes in certain ritual formats in some of the practices out of Greece and the classical era. I am unaware of cakes being consumed as a means of communion, however two variants I'm aware of are used as gifts to Daimons associated with them.

In the first volume of the Geosophia, JSK mentions Cakes being made as an offering to Cerberus (p. 110) which he discusses showing up later in rituals involving the Oracle of Trophonios. One of the items he discusses being carried is two “cakes of barley mixed with honey of the type offered to Cerberus in similar rituals elsewhere.” (P. 159) In the Volume II, he mentions a cake given to Hecate in PGM LXX. 4–25 made from the best quality Bran (P. 57). He follows this up, in his Offerings to Cerberus section (p. 145) by again restating that cakes are to made of barley mixed with honey. He makes a very interesting comment following that: “Such a cake was also buried with the dead to appease Cerberus, and perhaps elicit his aid in reaching the Underworld, rather than wander as a lost soul.”

Hecate has also been mentioned as per the cakes given to her in the PGM by JSK. I think it's appropriate as such to talk about K.F. Smith's comments on Hecate's Supper (deipna Hekates, Hekataia) in Stephen Ronan's The Goddes Hekate (Cthonios Books, 1992; P. 57 – 61). He writes that they were: 
... [T]he offerings laid at the crossroads every month for Hekate. Their purpose was to placate not only this dread goddess of the underworld, but also we learn from Plutarch (Moralia, 709 A), the Atropopaioi, i.e. the ghosts of those who for some reason cannot rest easy in their graves, and come back to earth in search of vengeance. An army of these invisible and maleficent beings follows in the wake of its leader as she roams at large through the midnight world.”
The Atropopaioi are, like the Biaiothanatoi, one of the classes of restless dead, although admittedly larger and more general. The violent deaths (Biaiothanatos Daimons) remain unable to rest because they died violently before their time and are one of the earlier category (Atropopaioi). This larger class of the dead (Atropopaioi, again) could also include children, unmarried women, and executed criminals. When they wander together with Triformis of the crossways, they become “Hecate's Horde.” Included in this horde are Hecuba in her transformed aspect as the “Black Dog with Fiery Eyes” and all other manner of specters, spooks, and what we would probably rightly call monsters.

But let's keep this simple, shall we? The cakes (along with a supper) are used to both appease classes of the Restless Dead and their Dread Goddess herself. What might they include? Smith gives the following:
As is usually the case with offerings to the dead, the regular Hekates diepnon on the thirtieth of the month consisted of food. The specific articles, so far as they are mentioned, were magides, a kind of loaf or cake, the shape and ingredients are not clear, the mainis, or sprat, skoroda, or garlic, the trigle, or mullet, a sacrificial cake described by Harpocration as “somewhat like the psaista,” eggs, cheese, possibly the basunias a kind of cake, for which Semus, in Athenaeus, xiv. 545 B, gives the recipe.”

Quoting from Banquet of the Learned (linked above): 
“Semus says in Book II of the History of Delos: The Delians sacrifice what are known as basuniai to Iris on Hecate's island – a basunias is a wheat-dumpling made of dough mixed with honey – along with what are known as kokkora, a dried fig, and three nuts.”
If you still are left wanting a better recipe, this one looks pretty good. [Edited because the earlier link was actually not as good.]

Actually, I'm putting off stuff that needs doing. I'll return at some later point to make comments on wine and psychoactives. Thus, you're safe from me and my insanity for a few days, at least.

EDIT: Please remember, should you leave a supper at the crossroads, to walk away without looking back. I think I've discussed that before, but it will keep you out of a lot of trouble
X2:  Image replaced because I suddenly had late night doubts that it was actually of Hecate. I can't remember where I even came across the other one.


Rachel Parker said...

[EDIT] The New Moon was earlier today. I'm not certain of the "rules", but this is the night I offer Hekates deipnon. I know She likes honey. I hope a generous portion of honey and just honey poured in the middle of the crossroads (my eyes shut tight of course) is satisfactory. I suspect it's better than nothing, which is Her and my alternative.

Jack Faust said...

Honey on a cookie, imo, is better than just honey. Cool water, milk, fruits (especially figs and walnuts), any cheeses, and such will work. When offering the Supper, you can also plant three small candles or tea-lights around the offering (torches used to be used; now we could use cheap, electronic tea-lights if need be), followed by a prayer to the West and leaving without looking back.

I have found that adding honey to the fruits in general will make the Goddess happy, along with a number of spirits. It's okay if beggars or wild animals, especially wild dogs, make use of the offering because they were allowed to eat said sacrifices back in the day.

I was going to get into the New Moon, but just didn't want to spend all day writing this post. LOL. I should have...

Scylla said...

Reminds me somewhat of a procedure I saw for creating Cakes Of Light.

I've been puttering around and experimenting with offering recipes for a while. Trying to narrow in on something historically and gnostically viable without killing the wildlife.

Turns out they're no so different from historical recipes.

Rachel Parker said...

I generally do it up better, with milk & honey, or maybe cheese inside a pita, etc. I like the fruit idea, the only fruit I've offered has been black olives.

You suggest an answer to a question that's been bugging me a long time: which direction is Hekate's direction? Do you mind if I ask—Why West? Thanks!

Jack Faust said...

Rachel: For one of the methods of picking Mandrake, the individual made a prayer to an unknown deity in the West. The prayer itself isn't specified, nor the God/dess, but I've made the case for Hekate (in one of my Dead Man's Hand posts) and others have that I quoted, too. Additionally, the West is where the sun sets, and so it seems a pretty natural position for her. I could be utterly wrong though! Maybe you shouldn't trust me. LOL.

Rachel Parker said...

West sounds to for me. When I pray to Her or attempt communion, I've faces either West or North. West may well work best.

Rachel Parker said...

Did I just write the above? I should preface all comments with warnings that say "I'm illiterate. And probably drunk." Ah me.

Jack Faust said...

Worry not. There was a time when the only communication between a friend of mine and I was "drunk-speak."

I have become rather adept at deciphering the aforementioned ramblings!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack, I was just reading the interesting information you have provided for Hecate and I would really like to ask you something. Last December, I left my first offering to Hecate and the next day when I went to see if the offering was actually still there or consumed by dogs, I found to my surprise that the bowl I left with the offerings was there but the honey cakes were gone! In January though, the offering I left for Hecate using the same bowl was still there even the dat after..I was kind of dissapointed because I thought the great goddess must have not approved of something in my offering.. The only thing I did different was to add some black raisins in the honey cakes and also used some of the first flour mixture that remained from the first offering. Do you think I should have made a fresh flour mixture? Could the black raisins might not have been favored by Hecate?...Any input would really help me! Thanks!!!