I'm not competing in the Zeus Agon as i'm the one sponsoring it, but I did want to post this in honor of Him. I was at the Met Saturday and while wandering through the American wing, into the Greek and Roman sections, I came across this eighteenth century (I think) French plaque. It was a gorgeous piece of marble with the image of Zeus and Hermes chiseled into it. So here it is and may They both be hailed.
I have been meaning to write up a recap of our most recent ritual, but I'm afraid it was so incredibly intense for me personally, that I haven't had the brain power to force the experience into the linear cage of words. I held the space so that others could throw themselves completely into His energy, and I was able to taste that Bacchic frenzy myself and honor Him with chant, dance, drumming, and raw abandon. Best of all, Dionysos was present and it was amazing, awe-inspiring, and an incredible celebration all around.
Fortunately, House Sankofa is full of incredibly talented people - far more talented than I--and incredibly devotionally aware people. One of our number, Langston K. graciously gave me permission to share his account of the ritual, which you can read below. Thank you, Langston.
He is great this God, Who comes with the scent of wine, and mad, laughing frenzy, Who guards all wild things well, and welcomes the stranger as cherished guest. Hail Dionysos. Praise Him.
We started out busily making greek alphabet divination tools, then Sannion taught us all 3 systems of divination, one with dice that used lines from the homeric hymns, one with 3 coins that drew on the wisdom of Hermes and one with the greek alphabet where you drew one letter, often to seal a reading. He also gave each of us readings to demonstrate the systems as well as demonstrating his own exquisite Oracle of the Leaves. (We often have useful workshops before or after House events. --GK).
He once gave me a very valuable dream interpretation using this Oracle and it's always a privilege to watch him divine with it. In Ecstatic, Sannion writes, "…there is a great density of meaning behind each of the leaves, things only that a devout Dionysian who has worked very closely with the god for a great length of time and is well versed in his myths and lore could ever fully hope to comprehend." It's hard for me to put into words, but watching Sannion divine with this tool is to simultaneously get a glimpse into the depth of his cosmology as well as getting a glimpse of your life through the eyes of Dionysus. You come away not just with insight into your current situation, but also with a new story, a mythic framework for your life. I guess this is what all good diviner's do to an extent, give their clients a new story, but the poetry and myths and history of Dionysus and Friends™ that Sannion has woven together are so rich they take it to another level.
Shortly after the divination class, I noticed that I was feeling Dionysus' energy intensely in the house. It was an odd feeling for me, because it was familiar, but I had changed so much since I last experienced it. Unconsciously, I had a fear of this energy because in the past I would resist until it built up and burst through me overtaking me which usually led to a string of bad decisions, but this time I felt it coursing through me gradually and was able to choose to step into the flow. I experienced it, perhaps for the first time, as wholly a blessing. It's hard to describe (that's what poetry is for I guess) but it was a feeling of simultaneous mischief and darkness, sensuality, good humor, relaxation, virility and a total lack of self consciousness. I guess really what I'm describing is intoxication.
We purified with kernips (water that had burning bay leaves doused in it) and then in usual House Sankofa fashion Galina sang a powerful fire blessing. One guest commented that he had never felt a space purification work so quickly and completely before. This is where it gets harder to track for me.
I remember ringing a bell 9 times to start the ritual for Dionysus, invoking Hermes and pouring out libations to him. I remember libations were poured by J for the Dionysian Dead, for Spider and of course for Dionysus. C gave a fantastic reading of an invocation to Spider. We donned masks and His dead were honored with dancing, drumming, chanting, singing and prayers. We each drew the names of martyrs of Dionysus to pay cultus to for the month of October. I pulled Skyles who was beheaded by his own people for adopting the Raving God as his own. Then, we toasted Dionysus, hailing his many guises and drinking wine with each hail. We read an incredible prayer written for Dionysus by E as well as the gorgeous communal House Sankofa hymn to Dionysus and Dionysus' portion of the ritual began. We drummed and stamped and danced furiously, instruments breaking open. We ululated and screamed and prayed. I read a prose poem I had written for Dionysus and tears streamed down my face as I felt His love pour through me. Here's a small excerpt:
"Dionysus demands touch. The God who Comes. The God Who Connects. The God Who Leads the stars in their dance. Iakhos! How would Dionysus deal with this isolation, disconnection, living in artificial space and time, angel headed hipsters with their fires gone cold not burning for anything anymore.
He would join people's hands. He would demand a band of maenads be formed. He would demand we voyage to the forest and light a fire. Feel the cold earth, eat grapes and honey and delicious breads soaked in the finest of olive oil and we eat only from the fingers of others. Massage and stretch and care for our bodies. Share stories that make us laugh and cry and hold each other weeping and laughing until we aren't sure which is which there would be love and sex and violence-- Pinatasas. And bold declarations and manifestos and art making. Io Dionysus. Io Evohe.
What would he tell those hipsters? look at your brothers and sisters. In times past my children have hidden, only free to dance on mountain tops, but look at you, gathering with the ease of a text and yet you are all so unhappy and fearful? Why? You carry the persecutor within you. Drop him. Drop your mask of cool casual numbness and don the mask of naked mad ecstasy, the mask of satyrs and maenads unabashed of their thirst for cock and cunt and everything in between full of the hunger that must be satisfied immediately. And they do. Tearing and ripping and grabbing and dancing and leaping. Join them my secret children, secret no longer. Look your brothers and sisters in the eye and say I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you. Say Im afraid. I don't know what my hands might do you're so beautiful drink with me and dance. Taste my lips first and my words later. Annihilate yourself in me if only for a moment. The annihilation of union, drink from it deep and escape the labyrinth."
More prayers were said, hearts bared, much laughter and seething and more screaming. Sannion and I read from Arthur Evans' translation of the Bacchae, the scene where Dionysus first convinces Pentheus the only way for him to come out on top is to dress up in women's clothing and spy on the maenads. Sannion of course, was Dionysus. Galina led us in a wild howling hymn to Him.
At some point Dionysus seated himself fully in Sannion. (Dionysos seated Himself during the howling hymn and stalked through the gathered people for some time, encouraging their frenzy. --GK) The ritual ended and He went out onto the porch where people received guidance from him. I usually am incredibly cautious and particular about what I eat, but after the ritual I was ravenous and devoured without thought the delicious food that Galina and House member G. made for us, a roast turkey and a mung bean salad with bacon, His undiscerning ravenous hunger and delight in the sensual was still with me.
Still whirling, I ran down to the river and sang all the water songs I knew. A huge golden carp the size of my arm swam over to me and slowly moved in circles through the water as I sang.
I went back into the house and lay down, the room spinning even though I hadn't had very much to drink and it had been hours since my last drink.
Thank you, Langston. Hail Dionysos indeed! The next day, I realized that we had gone through, during the course of the ritual, four *cases* of wine. No one was drunk after the ritual. No one was hung over. Dionysos took it all for us.
A few things I wish to note:
* E. and G. set up a gorgeous altar for us.
*G. cooked a whole turkey for the after ritual pot-luck.
* E.P. sent us a Dionysos painting from the Uk and it arrived the morning of the ritual to be used in the rite.
* I also painted an icon, the first representational Deity image I have ever painted that was used in the rite.
*the House graciously cleaned up everything a couple of hours after the ritual while I was tending to Sannion. That intense work is difficult and the one who carries the Deity is quite often laid out for at least a day.
*there was sharing and laughter and so much devotional joy.
*E. sent in a prayer, and so did S. the latter of which formed the basis for the howling hymn, the former of which reduced many of us to tears. K.C. sent in a lovely prayer that closed out the communal hymn.
*C. and J. stepped up to take parts in the ritual without prior preparation and did beautiful jobs.
*Langston and our visitor K. held and carried Dionysos' energy beautifully.
It was an amazing day of celebration. Thank you all.