We Need a Sacred Bartender

Update from Thiasos Bakkheios:comic_history_of_rome_p_223_bacchanalian_group_from_a_very_old_vase
We recently had another chanting and drumming and (some) dancing devotional. I’m going to report on it as best I can. Only some of these are my personal recollections; certain gaps in my memory had to be filled in with information supplied by “dude, you were so wasted” stories people told about me the day after.

The plan was to sacrifice food and drink to Dionysos and His friends and relations, to build up the energy and the ecstasy with chanting and drumming, and to ask the god if He’d be so kind as to send us some sign in our dreams as to how we can best make our individual relationships with him stronger.

That was the plan, and we actually carried it out. It went down like this: We recognized the ancestors and the land spirits, then called on the divine powers most prominent in His life, then Dionysos himself. Food and wine were offered with each round of prayer, followed by a round of drumming and chanting. Then was the wine communion. The procedure here is important to the story, later, so I’ll give some detail.

I have a goblet I fill with the offering wine after the gods and spirits have had their share. I take this around the circle, giving everyone a good long sip, telling them to “Drink from the Cup of Life.” After everyone has had their bit, I drain the goblet of whatever’s left, refill it with more wine, and send it going ‘round the circle. When we’re about to open a new bottle, I drain the cup and refill.

Once the goblet was going on its rounds, I talked a bit about how Dionysos relates to us differently, depending on what he wants from us particularly, and on what qualities we bring to our relationship with him. I described the face of Dionysos I most relate to, and told some stories about how my relationship with him has grown.

I was raised Southern Baptist. I can get a little wordy when I’m leading ritual, especially when I’ve had half a bottle or so to lubricate the talking machine. I try not to go so far as to be preachy, but the whole “I have this wonderful, personal relationship with God, let me show you it” wiring runs deep. No one’s complained so far.

So, we began another round of drumming and chanting and dancing. Afterward, the Spirit moved among us, and various powers started poking various revelers with, “hey, tell them I said this!” Rowan became the night’s mouthpiece for Dionysos, answering some questions and giving some advice. We believe he was truly in touch with the God, as Dionysos-on-Rowan was able to speak to another reveler (who Rowan had never met) about something that reveler and Dionysos had discussed on a previous encounter.

Then, someone asked if, with Dionysos’ permission, Ember could facilitate a communication with Freyr. Ember asked if some rum could be poured in offering to the Vanir (as we were out of mead by that point in the evening), and that’s where my memory gets a little spotty.

We’d already finished the sacramental mead, two bottles of wine, and some sangria by that point. So when Ember meant, “could you pour a shot of rum on the altar for Freyr,” I heard, “could you fill the goblet with rum on this round?”

If you remember how I do the alcohol offerings, you can guess why my memories of the rest of the ritual are… abstract. You see, everyone else was sober enough to know that they only wanted a small sip of the rum. The goblet was almost full by the time it came back to me, and knowing that everyone else was done with the rum, I drained the goblet.

The goblet in question holds about half a bottle of wine, which is good when you want it to go all the way around a ritual circle without running dry. In this specific instance, however, what it meant was that there were about ten ounces of rum in the thing when I felt the urge to drain it.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Fortunately, I have a good ritual group, solid priestly back-up, and a god who is kind enough to take the hangover away with Him after the ritual.

I don’t remember what the revelers and the gods talked about after that. I’m sure it was good, at least, everyone seemed satisfied. I am told that, when it came time to do the last round of chanting and dancing, that I was quite enthusiastic. I’m also told that when it came time to thank the gods and spirits, I was profuse in my love for them–so profuse that my ritual team had to rather forcefully remind me that it wasn’t necessary to thank them all for a third time.

There’s also something about me falling under the altar at one point. I don’t remember that at all, but I’m not surprised the gods can drink me under the table.

At any rate, there are two lessons to be learned here: First is that mixing wine and liquor in a ritual where the goal is not to completely knock the priest on his ass is a bad idea. Second, having a warder may be a good idea, even in small rituals.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a warder is someone whose job in the ritual is to keep an eye on the physical and spiritual boundaries, to attend to the needs of ritualists who are so focused on their duties (or so ecstatic) that they aren’t aware of their limits. We’d initially assumed that warders were only needed for large scale rituals, and that folks in small rituals would basically take care of themselves.

What we hadn’t considered in that assumption is that part of the point of our Dionysian work was to push our limits. If we want to create a space in which it is safe to do that, we need to have someone who’s watching to see that we don’t do so in a way that hurts ourselves or each other. This would certainly help those of us who tend toward a certain amount of hypervigilant responsibility let go and reach for ecstasy.

At the very least, I probably shouldn’t be pouring the drinks after the first round.

We have occasionally, half-jokingly, referred to Ariadne as “the designated driver of the revels.” This is personal gnosis, based in how She has made Her presence known in several previous Dionysian events I’ve hosted, though several people to whom I’ve related this agree that it sounds right. Perhaps we should make a formal ritual role of Ariadne’s Servant for our warder. Ariadne’s Cup Bearer? It’s a thought, anyway.

About Ashley Sarver

Ashley Sarver is a queer, nonbinary trans femme, polytheist, gamer, and disability caregiver living in the San Francisco Bay Area. View all posts by Ashley Sarver

2 responses to “We Need a Sacred Bartender

  • EmberVoices

    To be a little clearer, I usually do take on a certain amount of warding job for these rituals – we hadn’t totally neglected the idea or anything. But I can’t both ward the whole ritual *and* be a trance medium, and while having me do a bit of trance mediumship when someone else can take on the warding for a bit worked well in the past for the scale and kind of rituals we’d been doing, but… not so much this time. Oops!



  • Lon Sarver

    It seemed like a good idea at the time?


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