Author Archives: Lon Sarver

About Lon Sarver

Lon Sarver is a polytheist priest of Dionysos, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and contemplating (with a healthy amount of dread) making a second attempt at a career in Marriage and Family Therapy.

The Movable Feast

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In the forest clearing

In the urban warehouse

In the suburban living room

 

 

 

The Bakkhants meet

They pour out water and wine for the land, for the dead

And they call Them in

 

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A Hymn to Hestios

I call to Dionysos Hestios, Host of the Revel

He of the furious dance and clearing cry

“Euhoi!” rings through the wild places, his voice

Burning away miasma, calling in the Mad Ones

 

The tracks of his feet mark the sacred boundary

His thrysos holds the center ‘round which all spin

Between these two none need bear burden or fetter

Such is the hospitality of Hestios

 

I call to Dionysos Hestios, Provider of the Feast

He of the booming laugh and round belly

Dark vine-twined hair spread wide

Tumbling down the back of his couch

 

Wine-jars overflowing, cups never empty

Tables laden with every delicious thing

There are none who hunger or thirst at His feast

Such is the hospitality of Hestios

 

Hestios! Hestios! Kyrie Hestios!

Thanks be to the god for the place in which we meet!

Thanks be to the god for the feast in which we partake!

Such is the hospitality of Dionysos Hestios!


Madness and Mystery

hearth fireFor years I wandered, mad. I saw many things that were real but not true, and a few true things that were not real. My life before my madness came and went, in no particular order, flashes of memory that were more present to me than the lands in which I walked. One moment, I would be running through a bramble, heedless of the thorns, and the next I was a youth on the mountain, dressed as a maiden.

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The God of the Vine

Once upon a time…

www.shutterstock.com 488037633A dreamer lay in the field, sleeping in the morning sun, shaded by the vines whose clusters of berries brought a delightful dizziness, if they hung on the vine too long and began to smell just so.she’d gorged herself on these berries the night before, walking along the winding path of vine. Eventually,she’d come to a place where the ground looked particularly inviting. She lay down and went about her business, which was dreaming.

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I’m Still Here

Hello, all.

It’s been about six months and change since my last post here. I’ve been revisiting my devotional practices, working out some of the issues I’d found frustrating with the way I was doing things.

One of the changes you’ll see going forward is in the nature of content posted here. From now on, devotional stories and poetry will be the main purpose of this blog. There will still be think-pieces and opinions from time to time, but probably not as often.

I hope to hear from you, as you read along.

My outdoor shrine, firelight at dusk, 2018


Passing into Mystery

Spirits live forever, by mortal ken

Young still, when those who first knew them are long dust

But what is forever, when space/time itself will fold back into the void?

Where goes the the God of the Vine, when the last branch on Earth withers?

This is no lament

Eternity is only the event horizon of mortal vision

And passing into Mystery is no bad end

underworld


On Making New Myths

Is there room for new myths in modern polytheism and paganism? It’s a more contentious question than one might think.

labyrinth_02Ancient myths, also known as the Lore, are useful to us modern seekers of old gods in that they give us a baseline to work from. They give us common points of reference for an invisible world we grasp only partly, and often more with the head than the heart. Ancient myths give us an idea of who our spiritual ancestors in pre-Christian times thought they were dealing with, though it’s been argued that devotional inscriptions and poetry might be a better guide than mythic folk stories.

So, on the one hand, we’re reluctant to dilute the usefulness of these points of reference by giving modern works equal weight, especially modern works created expressly as fiction. If you doubt me, ask a random sampling of Heathens what they think of the Thor movies…

It’s a valid point, in the way that a road map is less useful, the more we let just anyone add in new highways and towns where they kind-of-sort-of remember them being, or (perhaps worse) where they think such things ought to be because it just makes sense.

On the other hand, many folks who favor historical documents over modern creations have also been burned by the unvetted creativity of earlier generations of modern paganism, who too often valued inspirational content and visions of how the world ideally should be over mainstream facts, and answered challenges to their new myths by claiming that consistency and foundation in history are irrelevant, and the myth they invented last week is just as true and factual (if not more so) than anything in a Dusty Old Book by a Dead White Guy.

I do believe that the gods are still here, still act in the world, and still inspire humans to tell stories about them. I’m in favor, then, of the creation of new mythology. After all, we are not living in ancient Athens or Heliopolis or Saxony, and so our relationship to the gods must change to fit our context. That said, a lot has changed since the days of Homer, Hesiod, and Orpheus.

The myths as popularly known today are a patchwork amalgamation of fragments of ancient texts, some of which are more complete than others, run through the lenses of  Christian monks writing their takes on the “superstitious tales” of the common folk and, in English at least, Victorian scholars obsessed with forging a consistent and socially acceptable canon out of the written versions of an ancient oral tradition, itself full of contradictions and regional variations.

The myths were not intended to be taken as what we would consider literally true historical fact, because the folks who first lived by these tales had a different idea about the distinctions between history, allegorical tale, and folklore–and sometimes didn’t differentiate at all. So it’s a safe bet that the gods are still active in the world just as they have always been, it’s just that they never did it as obviously or unsubtly as a literal reading of myth would suggest.

There are plenty of devotees of the gods out there writing new prayers, hymns, and adaptations of old stories. It may not seem that we’re producing new mythology, but it only seems that way for two reasons:

The modern approach to storytelling is different than it was. The old myths grew through sharing and repetition, each new teller adding embellishments and forgetting details, with the most popular versions being the ones remembered. While plenty of ancient poets sang for their suppers, the current business of fiction handles the creation and distribution of story in a way that stifles such evolution-through-telling and drowns out a lot of the folk-tradition tellings in favor of something that appeals to a broad audience and sells advertising.

The other reason is that what we view as established myth is being looked at from a great distance through time. We’re swimming in the creation of myth; it just doesn’t look like we expect The Myths to look like because it’s a body of shared tradition that is constantly in the process of re-creation and revision, not in a Big Book of Mythology with academic credentials.

Consider also that we who worship the old gods are a minority in the world, scattered a few here and a few there across the globe. Those groups and individuals who desire and are inspired to write new myths are doing so, but there’s no consensus on what, if any of it, should be included in the mythic canon.

In many ways, we’re in a place more like the ancients were before the great poleis conquered respectable patches of land and classical poets wove local stories together in a way that flattered conquerors.

In this valley, we have six main stories about Zeus, and our Zeus lives on that mountain over on the northern horizon. Two valleys over, they have seven stories of Zeus, only three of which are the same as ours, and they say Zeus lives on a mountain on the eastern horizon. A ways past that is an island that only shares one story in common with either valley, and they say Zeus lives on top of the mountain at the center of their island.

All these stories are true. If the stories I grew up with don’t match yours, I’m not going to be so impolite as to start a bar fight over it; I’ll just listen to yours, tell you mine, and we’ll pass a pleasant evening. And, maybe, we’ll both take new stories home to share.

So, the story of Dionysos as told by the hymns and prayers I write for my group tells a different version of the classical stories of Him than you’ll find in most mythology collections. It’s also different than His story as told by a pack of Dionysians in Maine, or as told by folk story tellers in Greece. What matters isn’t whether or not the stories pass an abstract bar of Truth, it’s whether they help you connect with the gods.

And that’s the final test of any new mythology: Does using it bring you closer to the gods? Does it help you see parts of them you haven’t seen before? Or does it just leave you confused by contradictions that you can’t reconcile, or worse, disrupt your relations with your fellow devotees with endless arguments over who’s right?

I’ll be posting new, or re-written, stories of my gods here, from time to time. I’ll do my best to be clear about whether or not I’m referencing accepted myth. So consider us travelers from different valleys, and if you find value in my tales, take them up, If not, listen to them as “just” stories, and no harm done.


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