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Tagged: thiasos of the starry bull

Hail to you Melinoë

Maiden with dark and light eyes,
mistress of many shapes and many wiles
– you were born from grief
and so know how to guide souls
through the winding maze of pain and madness.
You care for those whom others forget,
those who perished before their time or unjustly,
who were too poor or too unloved
to have the proper burial rites performed,
those whose rage and hunger were stronger than dirt
– these you call to you by name,
though all the world soon forgets they once even existed.
Through nightmare landscapes you lead them, ravening and deranged
until some pious soul sets out a feast,
burns candles and prays soothing words
for the restless dead of Melinoë.

Tagged: melinoe

The Hounds of Justice will be well fed


Galina has posted a rough template for the frith-working rite here . A bunch of people across the globe will be participating in this on Walpurgisnacht. Feel free to adapt it for your own use.

As the chorus sings in Aischylos’ Eumenides:

Weave the weird dance,-behold the hour
To utter forth the chant of hell,
Our sway among mankind to tell,
The guidance of our power.
Of justice are we ministers,
And whosoe’er of men may stand
Lifting a pure unsullied hand,
That man no doom of ours incurs,
And walks thro’ all his mortal path
Untouched by woe, unharmed by wrath.
But if, as yonder man, he hath
Hands defiled which he strives to hide,
We stand avengers at his side,
Decreeing, Thou hast wronged the living and the dead:
We are Doom’s witnesses to thee.
The price of blood we wring from him;
in life, in death, hard at his side we shall ever be!
Night, Mother Night, who brought me forth, a torment
To living men and dead,
Hear the hymn of hell,
O’er the victim sounding,-
Chant of frenzy, chant of ill,
Sense and will confounding!
Round the soul entwining
Without lute or lyre-
Soul in madness pining,
Wasting as with fire!

There is no escape.

Tagged: gods, magic, spirits, wiccan pedo gate

I am not an oracular priest but I do divine

Since I’m in a clarifying mood, I wanted to tackle the distinctions between acting as an oracular priest and the role of diviner. Though it’s been several months since I officially retired and ceased offering the monthly sessions with Dionysos there’s still a lot of confusion about whether I can and still do perform divination for people. As for the can, most assuredly; these are two entirely distinct skill-sets and my ability to do one was never impacted by the other. And I am still perfectly capable of going into the receptive state that permits Dionysos to come through and use my thoughts and words to express himself, though I don’t do so as regularly as before.

That’s because there is more to being an oracular priest than mediumistic ability. For one thing an oracle is always rooted in place and custom – hence we find oracles of Apollon at Delphi, Klaros, Didyma, Corinth, Cumae, etc. The same god and often similar methods were involved but because of the involvement of the landscape and its spirits as well as other elements you’ve got radically different oracles. I had spent close to eight years building up relationships with the spirits of Eugene and finding the points of contact between that place and Nysa which enabled me to create a reliable point of entry for Dionysos. And I had every intention of doing so again once I had gotten settled here in New York.

But a process which had begun close to a year before the move was catalyzed upon arrival and I found myself completely reassigned with an entirely different role and spiritual work to perform for him. Essentially I was fast-tracked as an Orpheoteleste and one of the defining characteristics of this path is its rootless wandering. And so while I am engaged in the process of establishing relationships with the spirits of this place (especially now that fimbulvinter seems to have let up a bit) of necessity the nature of those relationships is very different from the ones that enabled me to act as an oracular priest in the past. (There are further distinctions between these roles, but I don’t have the brain power to go into that now.)

On the other hand divination is very much a part of the skill-set of the Orpheoteleste and this aspect of my practice has really taken off over the last couple months. I’ve developed several new systems which possess a spooky degree of efficacy and am in the process of coming up with several more. On average I’m handling about four or five clients a week and considerably more when I post notices about upcoming divination sessions here at the blog. Every so often at the bidding of Dionysos I will perform a direct inspiration oracular session for an individual.

Other aspects of my practice have also taken off which I see, in retrospect, would have been incompatible with acting as an oracular priest because of purity requirements and so forth. (Not going to elaborate at the moment, as that would massively sidetrack us.) Which isn’t to say that one is better or worse than the other – the roles just operate on different wavelengths and it seems that you cannot regularly and simultaneously perform both (if my experiences are anything to judge by; and it could just be something unique to me.) I’m guessing that Dionysos perceived a greater need in the community for an Orpheoteleste (hence his reshuffling of me into this position) though that does cause me to wonder if someone soon is going to get tapped to fill that oracular slot for him or if there are enough functioning oracles of other deities that he just doesn’t deem it necessary at this time. Time will tell, I suppose.

Tagged: apollon, dionysos, divination, eugene, gods, local focus polytheism, new york, oracles, orpheus


Harrison and Ruadhán are having an interesting discussion about netiquette prompted by Erik Sapp calling Galina a coward for disabling comments on her post about our Beltane working. Regardless of what online conventions might happen to be I, for one, operate this blog according to the older hospitality model. I am the host of the House of Vines, which is a place for conversations about Dionysos and his retinue, the sharing of weird shit from antiquity with a special emphasis on Mediterranean religions, networking and community-building, critiques of the excesses and absurdities of neopaganism as well as cool art and music. I also use it to propagate my cult. I am part technician of the sacred and part entertainer – mostly I provide space for folks to come together and do or talk about neat stuff.

Now anyone’s welcome to participate either by reading along or actively engaging in the conversations and projects we’ve got going on here. You don’t have to agree with everything I say and if you do I’m inclined to view you as a sniveling worm and kiss-ass. You most certainly don’t have to agree with the other commenters here; as a general policy I encourage folks to call each other out on their shit. But as host I expect a modicum of civility from my guests. If you can’t manage that you’ll be asked to take your nastiness elsewhere. You’re more than welcome to come back once you’ve had a chance to cool off; I don’t hold a grudge. Hell, I’m talking with people now I had horrendous spats with just a couple months ago. We didn’t see eye to eye on those issues, but we do on certain other ones. Everyone has a right to be wrong – what they don’t have is a right to act a fool all up in my place. (I’m the Fool! I’m the Fool!) As host I have an obligation to see that my guests aren’t mistreated and if that happens under my watch it reflects poorly on me. So if I’ve warned you to chill out and you persist I’m going to act swiftly and decisively: if you are not holding up your end of the bargain as guest you will have your commenting privileges revoked and you will be permanently banned from my site. So far I have only had to do this three times, and I remedied one of those when the person wrote to me privately and apologized for their poor behavior.

Conversely there are times when I disable commenting on posts (or don’t reply to comments on open posts) because I’m just not interested in discussing a topic or in providing room and ammunition for an unproductive flamewar to break out. (As opposed to productive ones, which I am frequently stoking.) Sometimes that’s not the headspace I want to be in and sometimes I’m just too damn busy to keep up with a dozen different ongoing conversations, however engaging I may find them. Plus, as host, it is appropriate for me to weigh in on an issue every now and again and for my guests to sit there politely and listen to what I have to say without needing to provide their own two obols’ worth in return. Certainly a small price to pay for all of the information, entertainment and community I provide my guests free of charge, particularly since I play this card but infrequently.

And keep in mind that I’m not actually silencing anybody. There’s nothing stopping you from going back to your own blog to pontificate or venting your spleen in the comments section of someone else’s post. I may rant about your rant but I won’t try and stop you from ranting – I’m not even likely to engage with you elsewhere as I tend to stick pretty close to home. Furthermore, if what I’ve said really bothers you you can always write me privately to discuss it. Plenty of folks have gotten me to change my mind by reasonably dialoguing with me about an issue. It doesn’t happen often because I’m pretty firm in my beliefs but it’s always a possibility. And I’ll respect the hell out of you for handling it like an adult, wherever we end up on an issue

One thing that I don’t respond to well, though, is the notion that you have some kind of inherent right to express yourself however much and in whatever way you wish at my blog. That’d be like walking into your neighbor’s home, emptying their cupboards into your rucksack and then complaining because they didn’t have everything you wanted. In other words it’s a massive breach of hospitality and the host-guest relationship and I simply will not stand for that.

And if you don’t like it, well - don’t let the door hit ya where the good titan Prometheus split ya.

Tagged: egypt, greece, italy, paganism, philosophy, polytheism, rome, writing

Some Thoughts on Current Events

I have been thinking for the past half hour about the blog posts I have skimmed through over the past few weeks related to first one (and then another) child pornography or assault news items.

At first, I thought that this might be an appropriate outlet for my second ever curse tablet ritual, but I took a step back to breathe, and I have something slightly different to share ... for the moment.

Consent Is Not a Four-Letter Word

I am going to paint a broad brush here and talk about sexual assault in general, not just child pornography or molestation, because the apologist rhetoric we have been seeing is the same rhetoric used all the time towards adult victims of sexual assault. Communities have a duty to advocate for the victims of all kinds of assault, be they minors or adults. I know this, and several blogs I read show a substantial amount of completely legitimate outrage about this frustrating situation.

I am a feminist. Consent is a huge topic in feminism [video], and one of the terms thrown around in the feminist blogosphere is the idea of something called “rape culture.” Rape culture means that instead of empathizing with the victims and advocating for legal reparations, most individuals in America who hear about a man committing sexual assault give him the benefit of the doubt. The blame often shifts to the victim. How could she say that about him. But she was a very mature eleven! But they were dating! If you put him away for something like that, you’ll have to incarcerate every drunken frat boy, and that will ruin their careers! (If the person committing sexual assault is female, the reaction is quite a bit different.)

People do this because very few people actually know about consent. At least in my high school, we spent 95% of the sexual education curriculum talking about the STDs we had a 100% chance of getting if we did not engage in married, monogamous sex. We spent 4% of the time talking about how the reproductive system works. We spent 1% of the time talking about protection. Consent is not a topic of discussion. Most individuals hear the C word and think it must be some kind of complicated Girl Thing, like romantic comedies and spontaneous crying fits.

Consent actually applies to both men and women, and it’s really simple: (1) Don’t have sex with people below the legal limit. (2) If you want to have sex with someone, ask, and if they say no, don’t do it. (3) If the other person is too incapacitated to say yes, don’t have sex with them. (4) If at any point the other person says “no,” stop. (5) Everyone in the pornographic media you are consuming must be consenting and of legal age, because if they’re not, you’re participating in a system that has violated their consent.

It’s really not that hard.

The Current Situation

It bothers me that I have read so many accounts of people in the greater American pagan and polytheistic community being outraged ... at the idea that others might want to punish people who violate the laws of consent.

We all know that pedophilia is a mental illness, and it’s one that has the potential to create broad harm across communities in which pedophiles predate. On the other hand, most pedophiles know that what they are doing is illegal. They hide it. In an ideal situation, all of them would visit a mental health professional immediately on realizing that they might become a danger to children. In practice, this doesn’t happen. Yes, mental illness is stigmatized. Yes, it’s a condition that might not be changeable. But it’s also still their fault for not seeking out help.

The problem with our community is not that people are consent-violator/rapist apologists. It’s that we expected ourselves to be somehow different from the rest of America, and we’re all products of this highly toxic culture.

Miasma and Law

First, we have the right to advocate that a rapist or child pornography viewer be held accountable to the law. We have the right to demand that (s)he follow post-incarceration laws applying to sexual offenders. 

Second, we have the right to demand that the offender seek ritual purification before others even consider letting them back into the (adults-only/child-free) community. Ritual purification and civic accountability are not the same; the one provides an outlet for human grievances, but the other makes reparations to the gods of purification for the sin. Orestes, remember, needed both after he killed his mother: the purification from Apollon and the verdict from the court of law. It is not unreasonable to demand this, and even then, participation in the adults-only community must rely on others’ comfort.

Third, I have the right to comment that our community does not have a clear understanding of consent. This is not a character judgment. This is America. Let’s start by fixing this. What about clear behavior guidelines for all events? That would be a great start! Also, there’s a Polytheistic Leadership Conference (which is close to where I live, but I’m on the fence about attending because I am totally not a leader), but they might have a panel!

And that’s all I have to say about this issue right now.

sexual ethics

The moderators of a panel on abuse and sexual ethics at the Polytheist Leadership Conference are looking for speakers. If you are planning to attend please consider volunteering, especially if you are already presenting.

Tagged: polytheist leadership conference

Sap from a poisoned tree


Unhappy with the call to action and global magical rite that my partner Galina put out, some Wiccan child-abuse defenders have begun fighting back:

SYLVIA SAPP:  I can not support the total damning of a person for there actions. I would rather seek to heal them and help them rather then condemn them. Sexual predators need help. Some are preveios victims themselves. Who are we to further there pain and condemn them. Would that not make us the predators? Feeding on hate and sending pain to those that need help. I do not condone there actions, the thought of a child being scared in that manner is sickening to me, but I will NOT condone hate. Help the victim, both of them! The victim of society and the predators victim. You can post what you want, but so can I.

ERIK SAPP: Shortly after I started my job, I commented that even the worst of the clients the office represents are human beings and have rights. You may not approve of what they have done, but they are human beings. I also feel the need to point out that convicted child molesters are under court order to not be around children. So the author’s main argument – protecting kids – is not really valid. If the child molesters are at events with kids, they are violating a court order and can be dealt with in the courts. And if they only go to events with adults, then there are no children to endanger.

Oh, and the author is being cowardly in not allowing comments.


You want to make this a fight, oh we’ll give you a fight.

Jason Mankey has provided a handy guide to the neopagan summer festival circuit. I would recommend that people contact the organizers of every single one of those events and demand to know what policies they have in place and what steps they are taking to keep participants safe from predators. If they are anything but forthcoming and compliant don’t waste your time and energy arguing with them. Go above their heads and contact the actual land-owners as well as local law enforcement and media with your complaints. As we saw in Florida one person placing a simple phone call can make more difference than all of the BNPs and policy statements put together.


Tagged: magic, paganism, wiccan pedo gate

A long strange trip

Dver came up to New York City for a visit recently, and as I mentioned we stumbled upon a group of Persians getting ready for a Nowruz parade which was synchronistically delayed so as to coincide with the Anthesphoria.

Dver sent me some photos of the floats she snapped which I’d like to share with you, as they seem to be depicting scenes from Dionysian myth:






Click to make them bigger.

Afterwards it hit me that that coincidence was perhaps more momentous than I had at first assumed. I mean, it happened while I was observing a festival for Persephone, who in Orphic tradition is associated with weaving.

And as I pointed out here, Nonnos makes Arachne a Persian maiden:

Prince Botrys, hearing the echoing call from the divine lips of Bakchos hard by, roused himself, put on his own dress, and called to sleeping Pithos. When Methe heard the voice, she reluctantly lifted her heavy head, and letting it fall lazily, went to sleep again; all through the morning the queen still remained with her eyes gathering the most sweet bloom of sleep. At last she left her bed with slow unwilling foot. Staphylos the grapelover attended upon Lyaios, offering him the guest’s gifts as he was hasting for his journey: a two-handled jar of gold with silver cups, from which hitherto he used always to quaff the milk of milch-goats; and he brought embroidered robes, which Persian Arachne beside the waters of Tigris had cleverly made with her fine thread. Then the generous king spoke to Bromios of the earlier war between Zeus and Kronos. (Dionysiaka 18.190-217)

According to Ovid aconite was the herb that Minerva used to transform Arachne into a spider and Medeia instructed Orpheus in the use of this and other magical drugs. (Perhaps even Amanita muscaria.)

And as everyone knows, Medeia is one of progenitors of the Persian race:

And again he adds: “After about 640 years had passed, Belimus was king of the Assyrians; and in his reign, Perseus the son of Danaë, who was escaping from Dionysos the son of Semele, arrived in the country with 100 ships.” Then, after describing the defeat of Perseus by Dionysos, he adds: “In a later generation, when Pannyas was king of the Assyrians, the expedition of the Argonauts sailed to the river Phasis, and to Medeia of Colchis. They say that Heracles left the ship because of his love for Hylas, and wandered amongst the Cappadocians.” And again he says; “A thousand years after Semiramis, when Mitraeus was king, Medeia of Colchis left king Aegeus; her son was Medus, who gave his name to the Medes and the country of Media.” (Cephalion, as quoted in Eusebius, Chronicle)

Later on Dver and I attended an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History on The Power of Poison where she took this photo for her Raven’s Bread blog of the three witches from Macbeth stirring their cauldron. At another display in the exhibit they projected an animated account of the story of Medeia onto a couple Greek pithoi and amphorai. I was quite amused to hear several passersby comment, “Man, that Jason was a prick – he sure got what he deserved!” A little harsh, considering, but their hearts were in the right place. I also enjoyed the cries of fright elicited by the display on spiders. The exhibit questioned the historical claim that Kleopatra was killed by the bite of a snake and instead proposed that she committed suicide through a mixture of poisonous herbs including aconite. As much as I would like to believe that because of the prominence of this herb in my cosmology (and that I consider Kleopatra to have been of the aletide type of tragic maiden) I consider it almost certain that she died of snake bite. She was a consummate political actress and considering the prominence of the snake in both Makedonian and Egyptian religious culture would not have missed the opportunity to make such a potent final statement. Besides, all of the poisons they mentioned were painful and slow-acting and we know that Kleopatra, being a consummate scientist as well, experimented with these substances on prisoners leading up to Octavian’s invasion and found them wanting. But I digress.

Also on this visit we took in the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we saw this image of John the Baptist giving Jesus a blessing with the hand of Sabazios:


And we also found this amazing image of Seilenos carrying a jar:


From a tapestry depicting the Dionysian triumph of Alexander the Great:


While there Dver and I played one of our favorite games “Spot the Dionysos” which you can see the fruit of here at this post of hers. Quite a haul – despite the fact that the Hellenistic wing was closed.

Though we didn’t take pics there were a ton of images of Antinous and Hadrian, including some breath-takingly beautiful cult statues. It’s a shame that we won’t have an opportunity to play “Spot the Antinous” when P.S.V.L. is up in Fishkill presenting at the Polytheist Leadership Conference.

Which reminds me – my Bithynian Adversary is putting together some communal hymns for the Ekklesia on the occasion of one of their most important festivals (you can read about it here and here) – it would please your archiboukolos immensely if Starry Bull members contributed. Let’s make the Megala Antinoeia a true triumph and foster stronger ties between our two groups, as there often was in antiquity.

Tagged: antinous, dionysos, egypt, hadrian, herakles, kleopatra, magic, new york, orpheus, persephone, polytheist leadership conference, ptolemies, spider, thiasos of the starry bull

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