Some New Publications

I’ve got an essay on filidecht “The Well, the Sea, the Dead: the Poet in Irish Lore” in the latest issue of Air n-Aithesc, Volume 4, Issue 2. http://ciannai2.wixsite.com/air-n-aithesc

And a poem: “Fleet as Deer” for Flidais.

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I’ve also got some poems in the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina book,

Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus:

“A Grammar for Aphrodite”, “Venus and Felix Roma”, “Eros Unloosed”, and Hermes’ and Aphrodite’s Child”.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Roses-Devotional-Aphrodite-Venus/dp/1973810816/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501828200&sr=1-3&keywords=Blood+and+Roses

 

 

 

And a new post over at paganbloggers: Slipping Out Into the Mythic:

http://paganbloggers.com/blog/2017/07/29/slipping-out-into-the-mythic-by-finnchuill/

 

 

 

And happy Lughnasadh–and Imbolc for southern readers!

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Satire, Divisions, the Hound of Ulster

I’m saddened to see all the divisiveness that seems to be spilling over in our communities. Polytheism really doesn’t need the increasing fractiousness that’s taking on almost farcical proportions this year. We all will never agree on everything, but do people really want to tear apart our interconnected communities as they have been growing for the first time in many centuries? A few nights ago I was dreaming of ways to make going to Many Gods West in Olympia possible this year; I had written it off as completely financially unfeasible, but there I was online looking at airfares to Seattle. Dionysos Chthonios! Then I learned about the fiasco that had occurred and the cancellation. If you haven’t heard Dver gives a very good background to it all here:{edited: she’s removed her post}.

 

While I don’t think one could possibly do polytheist practice or any kind of religion without a political context (with the possible exception of if you are doing a private solitary rite and it’s only between you and a god(s) and you never share anything about it with another human), the fact that people are being labeled and excluded is very disappointing. I have long enjoyed Sannion’s satires (to say nothing of his enormous contributions), even if not necessarily agreeing with him. Again we have an example of how American society has less and less ability to comprehend satire as well as inability to avoid polarizing thought. Since satire is a sacred art in my Irish tradition, this is even more greatly a cause for concern to me.

 

On to more positive things: Today is a day when I celebrate Cú Chullain and I wrote this little poem as devotion this morning.

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Cú Chullain Has Taken Up Arms!

Bearing 3 heads, hauling a

stag in the back of your chariot,

after a day of monster slaying,

trailed by a cloud of swans that

light the sky around you

signaling the virulent turmoil of your ‘fury’,

your ríastarad, your warp spasm,

as you returned successful to Emain Macha—

who’d ever seen or will see such a

taking up of arms, O hero of Ulster!

 

 

 

And it is also the Liberalia, a day I find good to remember Ovid (who has also fallen afoul of political divisiveness in at least one elite US university).

From last year: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/liberalia/

Polytheist Book Recommendations

 

I like making lists, keeps my mind form chaos. Here’s a list of some good polytheist books I read this year. These were either published in 2015 or 2014.

 

 

Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht by Robert Barton. The author is a leader in the Gaelic reconstructionist community of Sinnreachd. There are a lot of Druidist books out there, but not a lot grounded in a reconstructionist foundation. This one is, and is a worthy interpretation of recon Druidism for our times.

 

 

The Treasure Book of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth by Morgan Daimler. Includes, the Tain Bó Regamna, The Morrigan’s Satire, Berba—The Story of the Morrigan’s Son, Oenghus’s Dream, and the Taking of the Sí. The author has both Irish originals and her own translations (impressive). A Miscellany of little bits from the lore about the gods and the holidays. A lovely little book.

 

Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (Pagan Portals series). Another one by Morgan Daimler. A good, if short, introduction to an Irish Reconstructionist practice, something people have been waiting a long time for. Includes a pronunciation guide.

 

Enchanting The Shadowlands by Lorna Smithers

A beautiful book of landscape poems (and short stories) and evocations of the Brythonic god Gwynn ap Nudd and also to my delight, of Nodens. Post-industrial landscapes (in Lancashire) and their forgotten spirits along with buried rivers are called forth, as it were too. Some of these poems give me shivers.

 

Ephesia Grammata: Ancient History and Modern Practice by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. Red Lotus Library. The Ephesian Letters are fascinating magical formulae that were associated with Artemis of Ephesus. This little book gives historical background about their uses and how to use them for divination. I have found them a very interesting divination set to add to others in my toolkit.

 

Thunderstruck with Wine: The Hymns of Sannion by H. Jeremiah Lewis. Nysa Press. As the subtitle says, 31 hymns to bring us closer to the God. As the blurb says “…they are Keys that open the Labyrinth”. If you’re a Dionysian, get this one!

 

Komos: Celebrating Festivals in Contemporary Hellenic Polytheism by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, (aka Dver). Winter’s main focus is on Hellenic festivals, but what she has to say is applicable to other polytheist traditions, including Celtic. She writes that the record even for Greek festivals is spotty, most of what is known is Athenian, and even there the details are often spotty. For Irish we have so much less that the Hellenic record seems rich. But I think developing new festivals for deities and heroes that fit our local situations is an important thing to do. As Winter says it’s a both and, meaning doing traditional ones and creating new ones within the spirit of the old ways. An excellent read, full of useful ideas.

 

I find myself thinking, as I rounded them, these are small books, and there is something good about that! Easy to carry, among their other virtues.

 

There are so many winter holidays coming up, (and books are such good cheer) and I’m sure most of us celebrate at least one, if not many….

 

 

Oh, and From The Prow Of Myth is still available and makes a nice gift. J

https://www.createspace.com/4443944

Nietzsche & Dionysos

This is an essay that will be in a collection that I will publish next spring/summer.

 

I feel Friedrich Nietzsche has been sadly neglected as a pagan/polytheist precursor, he who did so much to lay open avenues for pagan developments, among others. Many misunderstand his death of God statement and see this as a proclamation of an ideological atheist, rather than a clearing and the insight that the Abrahamic god was dead, at least in as occupying the center stage that he had held for so long in western culture. His trenchant analyses of the negative influences that Christianity had on European cultures, especially in terms of its cultivation of what he called resentiment, the resentment of those who identify spiritually as victims, and the nihilistic pessimism of the passive approach to a life so cultivated and the goal of living as life’s negation, which he explored in books such as Beyond Good and Evil and the Anti-Christ, retain much of value in today’s world (I find this especially obvious in the assertions so often made today that one should not critique Christianity, even in its most regressive forms and institutions, often under the banner of “inter-faith”). But for our purposes his Dionysianism is central. In his passionate weave of Dionysos and the Heraklitean philosophy of becoming, life-affirming (but not shying from the tragic) resources for pagan/polytheistic theology can be found.

 

The son of a pastor, Nietzsche had an interest in paganism from his earliest years. As a child, living in the small town of Naumberg after his father’s death (1850) Friedrich and his sister constructed an altar for Wotan. As quoted from Zarathustra’s Secret by a German academic, Joachim Kohler, Elizabeth Nietzsche said, “We happened to hear that the nearby hill called the Kirchberg had originally been a place of sacrifice, so we collected stones and fragments of bone and built an altar round which we erected a pile of bones and wood, then set fire to it. When our goodly pastor, attracted by the strange smell, came to see what we were doing, he found us striding solemnly around the altar with burning torches held aloft, chanting a kind of hymn to the words, “Wotan, hear us!” (22). Elizabeth went on to horrible things* but we can only wonder how much Friedrich’s imaginings and contemplations of Wotan was a formative element. He remembered an eagle answering their call who had screeched out the name of the god. In this period he wrote his dreams down faithfully, and an important figure was a cloaked gamekeeper with “wild, glowering” features who seems to echo the Wild Huntsman. A few years later, his diary reports, ”’Finally, we reached a valley,…surrounded by wild undergrowth. Suddenly our companion took a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill tone. At once the forest came to life, torches were to be seen here and there and we surrounded by men in masks” (24). This sounds like the spirit of the Wild Hunt. But it would be Dionysos to whom the adult Nietzsche would be dedicated; it is relevant that Dionysus also has an aspect as a leader of the dead and other spirits in a procession similar to the Wild Hunt.

 

Nietzsche often described himself in the role of a healer, a physician diagnosing the illness of Western civilization, and in his early book The Birth of Tragedy, the diagnosis was that the Dionysian aspect of life had been suppressed and neglected in Europe under the reign of Christianity and what he saw as its world-denying regimen. The Apollonian was just as important but had been given much greater due. There was no art form so vital in his view as Greek tragedy, that pure form of dramatic poetry that had been developed as part of the Urban Dionysia, the great Athenian festival dedicated to the ecstatic god. The tragedy grew out of the dithyramb, the enthusiastic choric form of poetry chanted and danced to Dionysus. He wrote that “Dionysus never ceased to be the tragic hero… all the famous figures of the Greek stage…are only masks of that original hero Dionysus. Nietzsche was himself a poet, though many only know him as the philosopher who wrote in a poetic style. He wrote a book of dithyrambs, which any lover of Dionysus should have, entitled, Dithyrambs of Dionysos. A German/English bilingual edition translated by RJ Hollindale and published by Anvil Press is an easily accessible one. He wrote the nine poems from 1883 to 1888, before his mental breakdown. A short poem that inscribes the beginning of the book is written as Dionysus:

In as much as I want to do mankind a boundless favour, I give them my dithyrambs.

 

I place them in the hands of the poet of Isoline {meaning Nietzsche}

The first and greatest satyr alive today—and not only today…

Dionysus

 

Nietzsche’s most famous and complex work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, presents a pagan vision of life. The philosopher T. K. Seung has written a hermeneutic work on Thus Spake Zarathustra entitled Nietzsche’s Epic of the Soul wherein he argues for the epic nature of the book, specifically that is as an epic journey of the soul. He situates Nietzsche as a pantheist, and in the lineage of Spinoza, a walker on the sacred earth, a climber on an epic quest, which parallels some of the writing of the book, which took place in the mountains of Switzerland as well as on the Mediterranean coast of Italy. Spinoza dealt with the problem of the deterministic material universe, the endless chains of causality, and how to create human joy from this seeming impasse of free will, and this would be one of Nietzsche’s concerns as well. One of the thorniest problems in interpretations of Zarathustra over generations is what Nietzsche meant by his doctrine of eternal recurrence; Zarathustra proclaims that seemingly impossible doctrine that everything will be repeated over and over, our lives in all our minutiae. Seung interprets it to be Spinoza’s chain of causality, the endless connections of our material lives and of the universe we are part of. The scientific universe whether of Newton or Einstein is this determined reality and the notion of the sovereign individual unleashed in this cosmography presents a basic contradiction. The laws of nature can’t be overcome. Seung states, “As long as these two ideas are kept apart from each other, there is no problem. But they generate an intractable problem when they are placed together. How can the individual be a creative master in the deterministic world?” (xiv). For post-medieval western philosophers the medieval theological debate over Adam’s free will versus predestination became one of free will vs. nature. For Seung this is Nietzsche’s ring of the eternal recurrence, a metaphor for the situation of the would-be sovereign individual within the laws of nature.

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Photo by Maylene Thyssen, Denmark.

 

But why not take the Dionysian Nietzsche at face value, and examine the theology of eternal recurrence? Carl Kerenyi in Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life wrote, “in the union of the two archetypal images, the divine pair of Dionysos and Ariadne represent the eternal passage of zoe into and through the genesis of living creatures, this occurs over and over again and is always, uninterruptedly, present.” Nietzsche had named himself the “last disciple of Dionysos” (Twilight of the Idols 563) and had found a precursor for his thought in Heraclitus: “The affirmation of passing away and destroying, which is the decisive feature of a Dionysian philosophy; saying Yes to opposition and war; becoming along with a radical repudiation of the very concept of being—all this is clearly closely related to me than anything else thought to date. The doctrine of the ‘eternal recurrence’, that is of the unconditional and infinitely repeated cyclical course of all things, this doctrine of Zarathustra might in the end have been already taught by Heraclitus. At least the Stoa has traces of it, and the Stoics inherited almost all of their principle notions from Heraclitus” (Ecce Homo quoted in Lukacher 7).

 

Nietzsche traced the eternal recurrence back through the stoics to Heraclitus, and his sense of the world eventually ending in a great conflagration, the ekpyrosis. In Heraclitus 45: “This kosmos, the same for all, none of gods nor humans made, but it was always and is and shall be: an ever-living fire, kindled in measures and extinguished in measures” (Curd 45). Life, fire, destruction, continual becoming are interlinked, indissolubly (as in ever-lasting: àeízöon, composed of zoe and aei, eternity). Stoic allegorists saw that the ever-living survives by dying, and Chrysippus said, “that all gods die in the last conflagration of the world, except for Jupiter” (Lukacher 10), we may hear an echo in the Norse Ragnarok. But for Nietzsche the god who survives the end of the cycle of the great year is named Dionysos. Regeneration in fire would always be world renewing. And Nietzsche theorized in 1883 that the Mysteries taught such eternal recurrence. Many die too late and a few die too early. The doctrine still sounds strange: “Die at the right time!”…I want to die myself that you, my friends, may love the earth more for my sake; and to earth I want to return that I may find rest in her who gave birth to me.

 

Like Heraclitus, Nietzsche did not see Being and Appearance as an opposition. There was no static Being but an ever-continuing coming to be and passing away without any closure of resolution. Like for Heraclitus, the strife of the world was not negative but something creative, in fact an overfullness, like a pregnancy near term (Ullers 9). Life is a process of renewal though its own destruction, something essentially Dionysian. The phenomena rise and pass endlessly, the forms broken like the tragic hero, the pathos of the will of the Heraklitean joinedness of opposites, of suffering and ecstasy at the heart of nature, an insight captured in the Dionysian theater, in the intoxicated god. (see Ulfers)

A Dionysian theology/philosophy can be discerned in this pain and ecstasy of becoming, one that has much potential as an alternative to the Neo-Platonist ones that have so much popularity these days, one rooted in pre-Socratic insight and the immanence of unlimited life and with potential for various polytheisms.

 

 

 

 

 

References

Curd, Patricia. Ed. A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia. 2nd Ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011.

Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysos: Archteypal Image of Eternal Life. Princeton, 1976.

Köhler, Joachim. Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche. trans. Ronald Taylor. New Haven: Yale, 2002.

Lukacher, Ned. Time-Fetishes: The Secret History of Eternal Recurrences. Durham: Duke University, 1998.

Ulfers, Frierich. “Introduction.” The Dionysian Vision of the World. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2013.

 

*Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche became a notorious racist, fascist, and anti-Semite.

Underworld: Aletheia’s Song

in the stillness

so much opens

the call of the sea

the downward thrust

leaving distraction

monkey chatter

snakes are quiet

even when they hiss

things are cool

even if the sun is bright above

there is such patience here

they can wait

these are terribly ancient ones

under the water

under the rocks

even in the slant

between the fall of light and

its absence

a dark hotel room

a cascade of memories

a loaded gun on nightstand

death near

some walk away like Orpheus

some become other like Antinous

crocodiles watch when

the snake shows itself, honor its

inscrutable face

stay observant and vigilant

for the smallest shifts,

waiting for Aletheia’s song.

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Great Change in the Ekklesia Antinoou/Sacred Nights

There is so much change going on now, some of it very painful, for example, my mother has cancer; some of it full of uncertainties, but also of promise. A couple months ago I wrote here the wind is rising https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/the-wind-is-rising/. In these parts (occupied lands of the Yelamu Ohlone) it is still warm, actually some of the warmest weather is usually in October, although like most places this year has been the warmest in memory. But the light feels flattened, like gilt paper with the black of night backing the other side; the awareness of the yawning otherworld felt by anyone with any kind of sensitivity. The crows cackle on the street seemingly louder than usual. And here on the brink of the continent the Land waits bone dry and parched.

Huge changes are afoot both in my personal life and in other arenas. The tide of Samhain is coming in. And the Sacred Nights of Antinous commence on the 24th with the Death of Osiris, the Pandea on the following day for the goddesses, and the Ophidia, holiday of serpent powers on the 26th. On the 27th it’s the Ananke (marking Fate) and on the 28th a high point, if sad occasion, is the Death Of Antinous, the commemoration of his drowning in the Nile. The following day is that of Antinous in the Underworld and then on the 30th Foundation Day arrives, commemorating the day when Hadrian found the body of Antinous on the riverbank, and the Egyptian priests deified Him.

Egyptian Mourning
Egyptian Mourning

However something very different colors these events this year for those of us in the Ekklesia Antinoou, which is that P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has stepped down as Magistrate (one can read the reasons on eir blog). This has brought sadness to me as e has done the foundational work of reestablishing the cultus of Antinous and has given the rest of such an immense gift in all of eir books, eir encyclopedic blog, leading of rituals and initiations, and so much else. There is discussion about how to reorganize a new system of organization once the Sacred Nights are over, and for that we can be hopeful that there will be a renewal, but nevertheless it is a shock to undergo such a change (at least for creatures of tradition like myself). Publicly, I will here state my immense gratitude for all of the work PSVL has done for the Ekklesia Antinous, for Antinous and His huge array of associated deities and other beings.

Some Antinoan Matters

I wrote and offered this poem for Hadrian on August 11, a date the Ekklesia Antínoo marks as the Accession of Hadrian. Hadrian had climbed Mt. Casius at night, a sacred mountain whose local deity was syncretized eventually with Zeus, desiring to see the sunrise from the summit. Today the mountain is in southern Turkey near the Syrian border.

Baal Hadad had long protected that

mountain on which the sailors depended,

his lapis place striped with silver dispensing

heaven’s brightness,

a summit that would draw

Hadrian’s interest during the waiting game when

Trajan, his great uncle, was dying. Years later,

sacrifice, the Graeculus, would offer beside Antinous

in the high and sacred place

where the sacred rock sat in open temple’s embrace.

Storm gathering the peak

had been since immemorial ages past,

long forgotten Hittite lords had here come

and now he who held the

imperium of Rome,

came with attendant and victim,

treading up the mountain, reaching

summit as ferocious storm

launched itself,

the sky a theophany of lightning,

the dark abyss of night

illuminated by

thunderbolts hurling

Zeus Kasios.

The emperor and beloved were unhurt,

the victim taken and the attendant too; but

Hadrian knew sovereignty was still his in that dawn.

On August 13th we celebrated the Birthday of the goddess Diana (Dies Natalis Dianae) at Lanuvium West. Hippolytus, the young man she deified, was honored too. Here are some photos:

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Important holy days are upcoming on August 21st and 2nnd: the Lion Hunt and the Festival of the Red Lotus.

I’d like to point out this commemoration of a lion hunt for a human-eating lion in the 2nd century CE absolutely in no way condones lion hunting today! We live in a very different world and today’s trophy hunters of endangered species are some of the vilest people we are unfortunately sharing our planet with.

And here are some photos of my Antinous shrine in the grove:

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These are Steven Postoff images from The Sacred Antinous..
These are Shawn Postoff images from The Sacred Antinous..
The Antinous Tree.
The Antinous Tree.