Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making a Dionysos altar as a poor-ass motherfucker.*

From the earliest times man has experienced in the face with the penetrating eyes the truest manifestation of anthropomorphic or theriomorphic beings. This manifestation is sustained by the mask, which is that much more effective because it is nothing but surface. Because of this, it acts as the strongest symbol of presence. Its eyes, which stare straight ahead, cannot be avoided; its face, with its inexorable immobility, is quite different from other images which seem ready to move, to turn, to step back. Here there is nothing but encounter, from which there is no withdrawal – and immovable, spell-binding antipode. This must be our point of departure for understanding that the mask, which was always a sacred object, could be also put over a human face to depict the god or spirit who appears.

And yet this explains the significance of only half the phenomenon of the mask. The mask is pure confrontation – an antipode, and nothing else. It has no reverse side - “Spirits have no back,” the people say. It has nothing which might transcend this mighty moment of confrontation. It has, in other words, no complete existence either. It is the symbol and the manifestation of that which is simultaneously there and not there: that which is excruciating near, that which is completely absent – both in one reality...”
- Walter F. Otto, Dionysus: Myth and Cult.

1. Either purchase - or if that falls outside your monetary capacity, make - a mask. Understand: the mask is now The God. (So inscribing “Dionysos” on it isn’t a bad idea, add titles if you want.)

2. Place mask on flat surface (a table if possible; but a bookshelf, or any other surface will work). If you can find, or grow grapes, place graveleaves and ivy beneath it.

3. Add a bowl, into which you can pour libations. If getting wine is too hard, cool water will work. Additionally, honey makes a fantastic offering. It is easy and cheap to obtain.

4. Fumigate if possible - frankincense, myrrh, storax and a number of other incenses will work.

5. Pray. Alternatively: “Dance as prayer” works here, if you are able. Hold the hymn in your mind as you perform the dance, or recite it beforehand or afterward. If you are unable, poetry is an acceptable offering of devotion. So is writing stories, etc, etc, etc. Like, you aren’t precisely LIMITED in your means of devotion and devotional work.

6. Profit. (Prophet?)

- Since the mask is the primary altar piece and not heavy, it can be transported beyond the home. This means that if you can't do anything at home, you can take it elsewhere and do your devotional work in that great beyond known as the outside world.
- In fact, the altar can be completely innocuous when maintained in the house. It's really just a mask, and a bowl put aside for libations. I grow plants behind mine, to keep my altarspace "alive." For some reasons, spiders really love setting up shop around it.
- This isn't really an in and out for devotional work at altars, but just the most basic setup I've come up with - and the cheapest - in my own spiritual work.

* Keep in mind that I've lived in varying degrees of poverty (bastards aren't exactly going to end up with trust funds when they grow up), and "poor-ass motherfucker" is used more in the spirit of brotherly love from someone who has been there... Rather than as an insult directed at those with less than myself.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Feast For Dead Kings

And Those Who Might Have Been...

While Sannion was discussing the Feast of Dionysian Kings, and how to proceed with it, he brought up medieval fairies and the notion that (some of) the Good Neighbors might also show up. It occurred to me that I could adapt instructions for meeting with said neighbors via a feast from the Book of Treasure Spirits, which contains a partial transcription of Sloane manuscripts 3824, dated 1649, and parts of Sloane MS 3825.

The section in question is as follows:
"These spirits may be also called upon as the other, in such places where Either they haunt or foremost frequent in, and the place which is appointed or set apart for action must be suffumigated with good Aromatic Odours, and a Clean Cloth spread on the Ground or a table nine foot Distant from the Circle, upon which there must be Either a Chicken or any Kind of small joint, or piece of meat handsomely Roasted, and a white mantle, a Basin or little Dish like a Coffee Dish of fair Running water, half a pint of Salt in a bottle, a bottle of Ale Containing a Quart, Some food and a pint of Cream in a Dish provided Ceremonies they are much pleased & delighted with; and doth allure them to friendly familiarity willingly & Readily fulfilling your desires &c: without much Difficulty, and some have used no Circle at all, to the Calling of these spirits, but only being Clean was heard and apparelled, sit at another table or place only Covered with Clean Linen Cloth, nine foot Distant & so invocate."
- The Book of Treasure Spirits, edited by David Rankine. P. 108-110.

I spent chunks of the day either gathering materials, or resting because I'd been running around in 107*F heat. During the resting periods I read some of
God Abandons Antony by Constantine P. Cavafy as Sannion recommended and Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston.

Then came the final gathering of food stuff for the Feast, and returning home... At which point I returned home to see my “fuzzy buddy,” also known as my house cat, covered in blood. I promptly proceeded to freak out, which didn't seem to amuse him terribly much. In retrospect, I should've noticed that he wasn't acting wounded right away, but couldn't tell how much he'd been bitten in the obvious battle he'd had. A bit of cleaning, and monitoring and checking him out for a bit has revealed that he only got bit a few times on his back legs (and they've been cleaned, and are being monitored for infection), and the blood probably belonged to some other poor creature.

I shouldn't be surprised. One of the many things I love about Dionysos is his love of large cats, and their beauty in movement and bloodthirsty frenzy. None the less, it took like what felt like an hour to make sure he didn't need to be brought to the veterinarian. When all of that was sorted, it was time to begin cooking (and already being sleep deprived I was feeling mighty drained).

We ended up serving:
- An alteration of chicken cordon bleu. Instead of binding the breadcrumbs with eggs, honey was used. Ham was ditched for thick slices of applewood bacon, and provolone and swiss cheese rounded it out. I then baked it until the chicken was finished.
- Shrimp salad, with Monterey and Colby Jack cheese, and blue cheese salad dressing.
- Black and rich coffee.
- A vessel of cream.
- White Rum and Irish Whiskey (libations of which, after toasts and cheers, were also made though not called for).*
- White rum with pomegranate juice (and some other mixers, like sweet and sour mix).
- Hawaiian rolls (because they're sweet, and cooking was already a bit of a stressful situation, without also baking a bunch of things)

- Red Velvet cupcakes.

Alas because there wasn't any scallops and worthy pancetta, I didn't make wrapped scallops. (I'll do it next year, and invite more folks to join in the Feast!) It was on the menu, but didn't work out. I tried to spend key moments of the cooking stage praying to the retinue or meditating on some of the Dionysian Kings that Sannion mentioned. I'd hoped to be able to read Orphic Hymns while cooking, but the entire buildup to the feast involved so much chaos that I completely forgot until the end, which was unfortunate and is something I need to work on, even if I need to get outside the chaos of preparing a meal for a large group of people, spirits, and deities, and use that brief respite more productively.

We then sat down outside, as the heat died down, and laughed and talked while enjoying the food. Everyone liked my honeyed, cheese alloyed, and bacon infused chicken, and divination performed before bed indicated that the offerings were well received. Perhaps next time I'll have the time to roast a whole, honeyed chicken. But it seems like baking it worked out just fine.

My battle cat is fine, although he didn't seem to stop being “battle ready” for half the night. And earlier today I was given extra intoxicating substances for free, so I think everything worked out pretty well. I admittedly forgot to set out the salt, which I'll remember for the next time I adapt the technique, which I plan to do in a Feast for Oberon in October. I'll also make sure to offer ale rather than just liquor at the place(s) set for the spirits. No circle was set down, but there weren't any issues, either. All in all, by the end of the night everyone was talking and joking, and it was pretty beautiful and blissful considering the stress and chaos of the buildup.

I had fun. I'd like to thank the
Thiasos of the Starry Bull for another reason to experiment, have fun, and give devotion to the retinue of Dionysos and Ariadne, not to mention the vibrant Heroes and Kings who are swept into the wake of the deities. I'm also really thankful that despite coming home to a bloody cat, he was fine. If things hadn't been the way they were, I don't know what I'd have done... Except maybe that I'd have been cooking the meal at midnight or 2 AM, and no one would've shared it with me. All things told, there was chaos, stress, fear, and then bliss and the ability to finally relax.


* “Why not wine?” I'm not a big wine fan, and divination indicated it was unnecessary if I used hard liquor instead while I made plans. I sometimes use mead as a substitute, but I'd already bought a lot of alcohol across the course of the day.