Tag Archives: Devotion

Gang Aft A-Gley

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley–and also those of polytheists. For our August devotional, I’d planned for Thiasos Bakkheios to have a high-woo trance journey, so that each member could meet the god in person, and discover which aspect of Dionysos they most resonated with.

Well, no. Scheduling problems, on-the-job injuries, and just plain bad luck conspired to make it seriously uncertain who (if anyone) was going to be able to make it, and guaranteed that at least a few folks would not be in the right space for trance work. So, thought I, let’s just have a dinner party in his honor.

Dedicating the time and effort and resources to cooking up a fantastic spread for the god is one of my favorite forms of devotional work. Moving (dancing) about the kitchen, hands-on raw meat, fire on the stove… It gets me high, when mixed with thoughts of Himself.

So we had a feast. Beef, rare and not so rare, rubbed in a Greek spice mix. Mushrooms and bacon, sauteed in wine. Dates wrapped in bacon and roasted. Blackberries and raspberries, olives, bread with dipping plates of olive oil, vinegar, and parmesan. Joey, who changed his mind at the last minute and joined us despite his injury, brought chicken legs baked in bean and cheese sauce. And, of course, mead and wine.

 

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The chair at the head of the table was draped in leopard-print, and the that place at the table held his idol, and his plate and wineglass. Nearby were dishes for offerings to other beings, and the usual altar items were arranged as a centerpiece, around a vase of flowers.

 

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When the Thiasos gathered, we opened with thanks and offerings to the spirits of the ancestors and mighty dead, and then to the spirits of earth, sea, and sky. Without them, we would not be here. Without them, we would have nothing to offer.

Then came the prayers to the gods, first to Hestia (without whose flame, the gods would not receive their portion), and then to those beings who were and are Dionysos’ kin and companions, and then to Dionysos himself.

For Himself, we laid a full plate and a full glass, and invited him to join us at our table. No one doubted his presence.

And then to feast! There was much juggling of laden dish, attempting to pass things around without spilling or knocking over the candles and icons. Some business of the Thiasos was discussed, and also many matters mundane and spiritual. And, there was laughter and fellowship.

And Cards Against Humanity.

After we were all stuffed and had run out of more specifically Dionysian things to speak of, it was suggested that we play Cards Against Humanity. Not wishing to exclude the guest of honor, we dealt a hand for Dionysos, and evolved a way for him to play.

For those not familiar, Cards Against Humanity is essentially a trick-taking game, where one player gives the table a phrase with missing words, and the others “bid” cards with words to fill in the blanks. The first player to take ten tricks wins the game

We took turns speaking for Dionysos when it was his turn to give the phrase (the prhases were drawn from a deck), and the table voted on the bid we thought he would most likely pick as the winner. When it was someone else’s turn to give the phrase, that person drew the requisite cards from the god’s hand, at random.

For example, the god gave the phrase, “The Academy Award for _____ goes to _____.” The winning bid was, “The Academy Award for the miracle of childbirth goes to dying.” Someone was obviously playing to the judge, there.

 

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In a more playful example, the god drew, “For my next trick, I will pull ____ out of ___.” The winning bid was, “For my next trick, I will pull the female orgasm out of a tribe of warrior women.” Well, if anyone’s going to do it…

The god played passing well, taking five tricks. It seems, however, that he was not playing to win, but using the opportunity to shape the phrase into a message for someone at the table.

For Ember, the cards the god bid on her turn had a consistent theme, summed up in this bid:

 

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“When I was tripping on acid, overcompensation turned into being fabulous.” She took this string of messages to be advice to get out there and do her thing, even if she was afraid it would fall flat.

Dany didn’t get quite so coherent a message, but the god bid the card “Hope” to her several times. Given the dire economic and health problems she’s been facing, she took that as a good sign.

We closed with further prayer and thanks, and then cooperative clean-up. The clean up went well, though it’s easier when it’s one of those gatherings that did not involve tearing animals apart in ecstatic frenzy.

There was a lesson here for us, I think. The god manifests in our lives, sometimes in surprisingly mundane acts, when we make room for him. Life won’t always go as I hope, and this will impact the work of our devotional group. He’s saying that he’ll be there with us, even if we don’t end up doing what we had initially planned.

We had hope that he’d play cards with us, but we didn’t expect him to speak to us through them. I would not have expected Cards Against Humanity to be an oracular tool, but I’ll take what he gives me.


Thiasos Bakkheios

I’ve started, together with half a dozen friends, a Dionysian devotional group I’m calling Thiasos Bakkheios. It means, roughly, “Folks who come together to perform rituals to Bakkhos.” I am no expert in any form of Greek, so if someone reading this can confirm that I’m using the words correctly, that would be great. Better, if I’m wrong, correct me.

The name was originally invented to fill in the “group name” blank when submitting a Dionysia for Pantheacon. As I’ve been missing regular, intense, small-group devotions in my life, I decided to open up my personal practice to friends and like-minded polytheists.

So far we’ve had two meetings, and are planning a field trip for later this month. We’ve gathered and opened by pouring libations and offering food to Hestia, to the spirits of the local land, to the ancestors, to the gods and spirits important in the life of Dionysos, and finally to Dionysos himself. Drumming and chanting and passing a cup of wine follows, and after that…

Well, it’s been interesting. The first meeting, we followed the ritual with a feast, where we drank and ate and drank and talked about what we wanted from the group and drank and got to know one another and drank… You get the picture. The session was most productive. Four bottles died in the enactment of our rites, and we made the best of their sacrifice.

The second meeting was an experiment in letting the energy go where it would. The opening invocations were much the same, but after we started talking about what kinds of ecstatic methods we’d like to explore. The group quickly lost any central focus, separating into a talking corner and a drumming/chanting corner and corner of enthusiastic cuddling. People had mixed experiences with this, and felt varying levels of comfort and inclusion.

There’s room in Dionysian worship for both intensely focused ritual and ritualized partying. But, being mortals with limits, I think that in future we need to be more mindful about which we’re engaging in. Given that the particular face of Dionysos to whom I most relate is Himself as the Host of the Revelry, there’s a strong emphasis on hospitality and taking care of my guests. As priest, I need to provide some sort of common focus, or make sure that everyone knows and understands ahead of time that lack of focus is the point of that evening.

I must admit to a certain reluctance here, though. Part of me wants to be The Guru, and I’m very wary of that bit of ego. So much so that I have, perhaps, erred too far in the other direction. I don’t like telling everyone what to do. Hell, I hope to help folks become skilled and comfortable leading these rites so that I can be one of the ones letting go. Still, someone has to point in a direction and poke everyone to go that way, and I suppose it should be me, at least at first.

That in mind, I do have a few goals for this group: First and foremost, I want to create a space wherein folks can deepen their relationships with Dionysos, where they can come together with like-minded folk and worship together. Beyond that, I’d like to have a solid team of devotees who are interested in putting on public rituals dedicated to Dionysos. Some years back, I was given in a dream a mystery initiation to share with others, and I hope that some of those who join us at the Thiasos will want to experience that.

If you’re interested in joining us, you can contact me through the comments or at lonsarver@gmail.com


Bedtime Prayers

I’ve done a number of things as part of a regular (or, more often, irregular) spiritual practice. One thing the powers keep telling me, though, is not to try to do everything all at once. Start simple, and build on that.

This has been especially reinforced by my recent (six months or so) onset of serious arthritis in my knees and pain in my hands. There are new limits on how much activity and energy I can spend on everything, and I’m having to learn to re-balance things.

So, here’s what I do, every (mostly) night: I pray. Standing before my altars, if I can; sitting or lying comfortably, if not. It’s simple, and I stay true to the form rather than the script. The prayer is no replacement for libations and offerings and other devotions. It’s more like the divine relations equivalent of a quick coffee with friends, just to keep in touch in between parties.

Hey, don’t knock the little things, yeah? Small pushes keep the wheel spinning, once you’ve cranked it up.

Oh my powers, great gods, ancestors, spirits of the land
I thank you for sharing this life with me

You, first and foremost, Dionysos
My lord, my love, my Bakkhos
I thank you for the joy and the rage and the ecstasy you bring out in me
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

You, Lady of the Moon and Lord of Death and Resurrection,
The springs from which the Kingstone Wicca flow
I thank you for accepting me into your family
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

You, Freya and Freyr, and all the Vanir kin
I thank you for the love you have brought me
I thank you for the lessons you share with me
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

You, Baron Brav LaCroix
I thank you for standing with me in the dark
I thank you for showing me the joy in fear
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

You, Melek Ta’us, Peacock Angel
Who showed me what it was like to open and let a god inside
I thank you for the hard lessons you have taught me
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

Ron, Teri, Merrill, Sanford, Virginia, Thelma, Alvis, Ruth
And all my ancestors of blood, and my ancestors of spirit
You who walked this Earth before me, and made my way easier thereby
You heroes and Mighty Dead
All you who left this world to me
I owe you a debt, and pay it to our mutual posterity
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

You spirits of Earth, Sea, and Sky
Spirits of the mountains and valleys, the fill and the wetlands
Spirits of creek and river and delta and the bay and the ocean
Spirits of sky and wind and fog and rain and the myriad lights of the heavens
All you who make and maintain the world
Thank you for allowing me to live within you.
I thank you, and offer you the hospitality of my heart and my home

Thank you, gods and powers
Thank you, and goodnight


A Love of Spirit

What have you inherited from your ancestors?

What haven’t I inherited from my ancestors? Genetically, socially, materially… I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had the ancestors I did. Not just in the simple sense of not having been born without my parents; I would not be the person I am without the advantages and challenges they’ve left me.

But that’s all fairly generic, isn’t it?

My father was an easy man to love, but not an easy man to live with. Growing up, I’d thought he was always disappointed in me, as if I’d failed some test I didn’t know I was taking. In reality, he was dealing with serious depression. Late in his life, he would often talk about feeling he’d failed me as a parent.

I get depression–I got it from him. I know what he went through, and with my own son, I can imagine how hard he tried to keep his depression from affecting me too badly.

Another thing I got from him was a thirst for spirit.

My father, perhaps because of his depression, was a very religious man. For years, I’d thought that our family had always been very involved in the Southern Baptist Church, but talking with family after my father’s funeral, I learned that he was the one who got them involved.

He was passionate about his Christianity, but he was never overbearing about it. I remember a period of my early teens where many of the things I wanted came with something religious attached. The example I remember the best was a DC Comics trivia book I wanted. I showed it to him, and he came back with a Bible study workbook, telling me I could have the one if I also took the other.

I don’t think I looked at the Bible workbook more than twice, actually.

Another thing I remember was the year we lived in Missouri. At the time I had no idea, but having to move away from his church must have been as hard on him as moving away from his family. We must have tried half a dozen churches that year. They were all Protestant evangelical denominations, but I think I owe much of my interest in the diversity of religious expression to that year.

I particularly remember the small church, run out of the living room of a farmhouse. It was folk guitar and barbecue and praying in tongues. Now that I think on it, this probably predisposed me to the culture of modern Paganism.

My father never really came to terms with where I took it, but I will always thank him for giving me a love of spirit.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


Melek Ta’us: Make-up Assignments

A Month of Written Devotion for Melek Ta’us, the Peacock Angel

Well, I fell off the meme for a few days. All there is to do about it, is to get back on. So here are the days I missed:

Transformation: Well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? At least, it seems so to me. For any devotion, it’s about transformation, at least insofar as I’m trying to pull into my life energies and insights that aren’t already there. With regard to the Angel, I want more of that fierceness, that beauty, that self-sufficiency of regard that seems to be a part of him.

Understanding: My understanding of Melek Ta’us is shifting. Once, I looked his way and saw distance, untouchable beauty, and an “impress me or fuck off” attitude. I thought that was all there was, as if he were the Alpha Bitch of the universe. I’m starting to see around that, to see some of it is my own projection, and some of it is real, but not meant in purposeless cruelty.

Companionship: As with Transformation, it’s kind of the point, yeah? I want to feel the presence of my gods in my life. I understand that it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll feel all of them all of the time, but I’ll settle for most of them, more often than not. If I can get it.

Friendship: This may be too much to ask of Melek Ta’us. I don’t get the impression that he’s approachable that way, though I may be mistaken about that. I’m not sure what I’d do if I did get that kind of connection–or what it would do to me.

I see the difference between friendship and companionship as the level of intimacy involved. A friend touches us on levels a companion would not (not that way… that’s a Friend With Benefits), evoking a more profound response.

—–
Ember’s doing it, too: Month of Written Devotion


Melek Ta’us: Who?

A Month of Written Devotion for Melek Ta’us, the Peacock Angel. Published just a little bit late.

When God created Humanity, God ordered the angels to bow before the new beings. Glory to the new chosen, glory to the heirs of God.

Melek Ta’us, proud first son of God, first among angels, would not bow before the new beings. Glory unto God, Glory only unto God.

When God heard this, God was angry, and God gave proud Melek one chance to repent. Still the angel would not bow, and so God created Hell. Still the angel would not bow, and so God cast Melek Ta’us into Hell.

Alone in Hell, the Peacock Angel wept. For seven thousand years, alone in hell, the Peacock Angel wept.

The first thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for himself. He wept for his pain, for the loss of God. He wept for his shame, that God would choose to exalt humanity and punish his first and most glorious son.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The second thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept, pleading to God for forgiveness. He wept, and promised to bow before humanity, if that was what God demanded.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The third thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for God’s pain. He wept, for he realized the pain he had caused God for the sake of his pride.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The fourth thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for Heaven. He wept for his empty throne, he wept for his work undone, he wept for his empty corner of the sky.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The fifth thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for Earth. He wept for the flowers fading in autumn, he wept for the beasts that died to feed others.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The sixth thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for Humanity’s pain. He wept for their sickness, he wept for their deaths, he wept for the pain they would give one another.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. But the fires rose anew.

The seventh thousand years, Melek Ta’us wept for Humanity’s promise. He wept for the seed of glory inside humanity, he wept for the beauty of the human soul.

Melek Ta’us wept in joy.

The Tears of the Peacock Angel, the first angel, filled and flooded Hell, and doused the fires of the pit. The tears of Melek Ta’us broke the walls of Hell, and the fires died for ever.

God saw the blue-skinned, gorgeous Peacock Angel born anew from fire and flood, and apointed him the leader of the seven angels who would protect and nurture the world.

God saw the blue-skinned, gorgeous Peacock Angel born anew from fire and flood, and apointed him the special guardian and teacher of Humanity.

And God withdrew from the Earth, leaving it to the angels.

And Melek Ta’us looked out across the Earth, and saw Humanity rising in all its varied sexes and genders and colors, and heard Humanity singing in all its languages, dancing in all its homes on the Earth.

And Melek Ta’us loved what he saw.

And Melek Ta’us said to Humanity, Oh my dear children, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Oh my beloved, what beauty you will know, what lessons you will learn.

It’s a pity so much of it will have to be learned the hard way.

—–

Ember’s doing it, too: Who Is She?


The To-Do List From… Somewhere

What devotional goals have you set for yourself?

Sadly, I’m much better at setting goals than at achieving them. This blog is a good example; I set myself a goal of posting something every Tuesday and Thursday, but, well…

I have five shrines set up, one for each of my main devotional relationships. The largest and most elaborate belongs to Dionysos, as one might expect. The others are for the God and Goddess of my initiatory line of Central Valley Wicca, the Vanir (primarily Freyja), Ghede, and Melek Ta’us. I feel that each of them deserves at least a brief daily prayer, just to keep the connection open.

For Dionysos, I want to devise a calendar of observances of the major events of His life, as related in His myths, timed to the local (Northern California) growing year for wine grapes. Also, I have held quarterly devotional parties for Him, and I want to continue that, though I may change the character of some of them. Further, I have a dream of starting a monthly devotional group, possibly leading to mystery initiations.

For the God and Goddess (they have proper names, but those are oathbound secrets), I’d like to have a more extensive prayer for full moons, and observances of the stations of the Wheel of the Year with my family–perhaps as small dinner parties.

Freyja has said she has things to teach me, so figuring out what those are and how to go about learning them is a priority for working with the Vanir. Of course, it’s rude to ignore what’s important to Her outside that learning, so I suppose there will have to be added prayers for her brother and parents, at least. I’m already a part-time attendee at our local Vanatru group.

The Ghede are a family of spirits, something akin to ascended ancestors, but more than that. My particular Ghede isn’t completely known to me. Ghede has many paths and many names, and the differences are important. I need to solidify that contact, and get better acquainted with him, before I can tell where to go with that devotion.

Melek Ta’us and I have an uneven relationship. We don’t always get along, and I have often regarded his behavior as unfair or at least callous. But He’s the Angel of tough love, the one who pushes boundaries and tests limits. Part drill sergeant, part drag queen. I’m coming to appreciate what He’s tried to teach me more, and I’m seeing that, when He’s used me to get to others, He did so in a way that made me larger. I want to study what I can of Yezidi practices pertaining to him, to respect his origins in a far land and a threatened culture.

You know, all this looks much more ambitious when it’s all written down in one place. The work I want to do for Dionysos alone would be enough for any sane devotee. However, he’s the Mad God, so I stagger on…

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.


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