Mysteries of the bull

Dear Poseidon,

This year’s vigil is at an end.  All that remains is to print out the rituals and hymns to preserve in my book of practice.  All that’s physical, at least.  There is much I need to ponder, as well.

I know you exposed me to some of your mysteries.  For a writer, that’s not difficult to discern; I tried writing down what you taught me, and then I tried to make sense of the words after the fact.  Curiously, while I recognize that nothing coherent can be made of what I scrawled upon the page, that gibberish rekindles the fire you lit in my mind.  The full understanding washes over me, triggered but not described by the letters I penned in the moment.  Perhaps that was the purpose of the ear of corn to initiates of Eleusis.

Not all you revealed slips entirely free of language.  I now have some inkling of your consort Posedeia, and recognize that her being all-but-forgotten may have been by design.  Others may know something of she who was lost to history, or the impossible child which she did — and did not — bear you.

[Michelle Young.]

Frankly, I expected none of this.  This is the Vigil for the Bulls, after all, and bulls are about which I was prepared to ponder.  On that topic, I am gobsmacked.

Well I know the myth of the Tauros Kretaios, the magnificent bull which Minos asked of you to ensure his kingship.  Had he but sacrificed it as he was expected, many significant events would never have been spun out by the Moirae.  Now I hold a new version of that tale in my head, one which adds depth to Minos’ betrayal, and a bittersweet dimension to all which resulted from his desire to own that beast, rather than cede it back to you.

I was led to believe that this is a vigil at the intersection of politics and practice, an opportunity to bear witness to the grief you feel over the terrible choices humans have made.  I did not understand that joining a god in grief opens pathways to other regrets.  I did not understand that to share your sorrow is to bear my own.  I did not understand that I might gain from this service.

The ocean is heavy, and the earth heavier still.  Never could I bear the full weight you carry, Poseidon; Atlas himself might shy from that burden.  That you allowed me to even glimpse the scope of what is upon your vast shoulders is both an honor and a challenge.  I pray I am worthy of both.

Your humble priest,
Terentios

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Oracle of the bull

We are nearly at the beginning of the year per the old Athenian calendar, and that signals a new period of service to the community for me.  Monthly in the coming year I will be acting as oracle of Poseidon, as part of training I am receiving from him for another activity.

I will be doing this on the following dates:  July 20, August 20, September 18, October 16, November 16, December 17, January 15, February 12, March 15, April 12, May 13, and June 11.

Those wishing to get a question answered are requested to submit it here; questions must be received three days’ prior else they will be rolled over until the next session.  (If you’re late for the last session, that’s probably going to be that.)

Offering of the bull

I’ve been preparing for the Vigil for the Bulls for about ten months now, as compared to the week or two I’ve invested in years past.  I already know the vigil will have far-reaching consequences in my life.

Even as I was wrapping up last year’s vigil, I had a sense that I wanted to offer something more than my time, my energy, wine and incense.  A couple of months later I hit upon the perfect thing:  a bull.

a wooden model approximating a bull skeleton standing before a large, blue-bound book emblazoned with a trident

Book and bull.

Part of why I sit this vigil is because of the senseless spectacle of death which takes place in Pamplona each day after the bull run.  These are animals being chased through a screaming crowd to the corral from which they will face near certain death in the bullfighting ring.  It is essentially the opposite of the purpose sacrifice fills.

Sacrificing a bull in an ancient Hellenic city-state meant that there was a lot of meat passed around, mostly to people who didn’t get much of it.  The meat from a bullfighting victim is sold to high-end restaurants, and commands a premium price because of its rarity.  Moreover sacrifice is an offering — a big one — which is all about the gods.  Bull running and fighting is a spectacle designed to celebrate danger, violence, and bloodshed, and which is all about the people.  If a god dwells in those temples, the participants seem unaware.  Certainly no god is being given a share of these deaths.

These other bulls meet there end in a way which is anything but holy. By making a votive offering of a bull during the vigil, I stand for a right relationship with the gods, as well as with these animals and other beings.  Yes, the bull and I hang from the same food chain, but as an animist I seek a more respectful relationship, even with those beings I must eat.

This will be an offering that stands counter not only to bullfights, but to factory farms, and the unnatural disconnection from that food chain their presence has fostered.  When I burn it has yet to be determined; I’ll be staying in a hotel the last couple of nights of the vigil, and setting midnight fires in the courtyard might be frowned upon.

Mystic South workshops

It is my honor to be presenting this year at Mystic South, rubbing elbows with people far more learned than myself.

mystic-south-1200-banner

On my slate is a workshop and two rituals:

  • Thrifty Pagan Workshop.  Spells, rituals, and prayers around money are incredibly common, but if they work, why aren’t all the people who use them wealthy? Some money magic just doesn’t keep it real because it doesn’t allow space to act in accordance with the will. Perhaps it’s difficult to act accordingly when it comes to money because very little is taught about how to handle and manage money in the first place.In this workshop, learn about the thrift. The word is now mostly associated with discount stores and boy scouts, but as a value it can provide a sound basis for money management and magic alike.
  • American Flag Blessing.  The American flag is a powerful unifying symbol for the United States, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a boost from time to time. This ritual is intended to bless official American flags in the hope that all who see them will also see what they have in common with their neighbors and others who live in this country. Lore about the flag will also be shared.Participants are encouraged to bring American flags — any that has ever been the official flag still counts as one — for this blessing. Terentios will also accept flags which cannot be repaired for respectful retirement in a Pagan ceremony which will take place later this year as it requires fire, not a good fit with the inside of a hotel.
  • Quaker Worship.  In Quaker practice, no tools, rituals, or leaders are required to commune with the divine. Instead, they gather to worship in silence, which is broken occasionally when spirit moves someone to share a message aloud as vocal ministry. Join Terentios, a “convinced friend,” who will facilitate this deep and powerful form of worship.

Honoring a hunter

Great goddess Artemis,
mistress of all wild things,
know that Peregrine is one of your own
and receive him now into your care.

Hear how this fierce hunter
has made himself ready in your honor;
of his adventures and deeds and kills
more numerous than paws can count.

Many a day Peregrine roamed his lands
first in the shadow of matchless Myrlyn
before that one vanished in the night,
and then carrying on the legacy himself.

Mole and vole and mouse,
and the flying ones, too
knew fear and death
in grasp of barn-born paws.

Stalking seas of dry food,
a delicacy taken from him years past,
Peregrine found himself ensnared
farther from home than ever before.

You smiled upon him then,
keen-eyed Artemis,
and guided him home
to live out his days.

No scuffle with another
would stay him from the outdoors,
and though weather limited his time there,
rare was the day he never passed your shrine.

Ruling his pride,
training his humans,
running down his prey,
claiming his spot in the sun:

in these Peregrine has excelled,
leader of the hunt,
and as he transitions now,
those qualities he brings to you.

May he be accorded the honor he deserves,
the snuggles he desires,
the crunchy treats and catnip
and days by the roaring fire forevermore.

We can no longer care for him in this world.
May he be welcome full-throated in the next.

Peregrine at rest 20160216.jpg

Peregrine Ward (spring 2006-May 24, 2018)

Blogging tip

The only person who will notice how long it’s been since your last post is you. Therefore, the least interesting way to open a post is by referencing how long it’s been.

Procession obsession

Everybody loves a parade.

I cannot find an attribution for that quote, but the sentiment is surely ancient. There’s something about a procession of people, vehicles, and sometimes animals in a line down a road that makes people want to come out and watch. It’s an old, old concept; there are references to “triumphal processions” dating back thousands of years, for example, and the same sense of celebration is captured in ticker-tape parades held today. While the purpose of any particular march might not sit well with each observer, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that overall, everybody loves a parade.

The religion I practice, Hellenismos, has parades — we also call them “processions” — baked right in. Rather than setting sacred space by casting a circle or by sanctifying a building (although the latter is a laudable goal), today we proceed to the temple or shrine as a way to alter consciousness. I did something similar when I was an active Gaiaped (backpacking Pagan) by touching trees along the trail I was hiking. It wasn’t sufficient to commune with any particular tree, but instead helped me get in tune with the trail as a whole.

I happen to live in a community wherein parades are a disproportionately big deal. The biggest is the one on Halloween, when there are nearly as many people walking down Main Street as live in this community. That’s not the only one, though: there’s the pride parade, one on Memorial Day (the real one, mind you, rather than the sad Monday substitute), a celebration of Little League players, and one that happens on Palm Sunday. Once or twice there was something called a “Phool’s Parade,” which didn’t last either due to poor weather in April and May, or maybe because of the odd spelling.

What I see are three important pillars for parades in my life: they are an ancient way of gathering the people, they are a sacred part of traditions I follow, and they are woven deeply into the culture of my community. Nevertheless, it did not occur to me that New Paltz Pagan Pride, first and foremost, needed to be a parade. That notion arose for Anton Stewart, praised be his name, for it’s the parade that shall set apart this pride festival from all others held on behalf of those who follow a Pagan path.

All things come at a price, however. With few exceptions, organizers of parades in New Paltz — at least the big ones, which involve stopping traffic rather than following the sidewalk — must pay not only for a permit, but for the police officers’ time as well. That’s not an unreasonable request, but it is one that can easily run until four digits. Throw in the (refundable) cleaning deposit for the park, and you’re looking at a couple grand in seed money. With some careful fundraising at the event itself (charging vendors, holding raffles, perhaps a silent auction), the money for a second and successive parades should be much easier to acquire than that for the first. Such is the nature of money that it draws itself to itself.

I’m looking to plant that glorious seed.

To that end, I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to get that first wonderful event on the map. It could well be a glorious addition to the religious diversity of New Paltz, which already features a Palm Sunday parade and in which there are plans for an event called “Praise in the Park.” The typical pattern would be a parade that leads to an event; in this case, it would be a Pagan pride day. I’d like to covens, circles, groves of leafy Druids and hooded adherents of mystery traditions congregate in the parking lot of the middle school before following a police escort down Main Street. Perhaps they’d even build floats! We’d chant and throw flowers as we stepped lively down the hill to Hasbrouck Park, where rituals and lessons would be the theme of the day.

Free events are not free! I’m astounded at how much time and effort goes into finding and coordinating people to pull off a simple ritual and provide more information for the curious. Above and beyond the parade, the park I’m looking at only has a nominal cost ($25 last I checked), but there’s also a $500 deposit against cleanup (which cannot be waived, but can be returned) and the cost of event insurance (which can be waived for groups that have no money). Folks also talk about designing and distributing posters, selling t-shirts, and woo-boy, it adds up quickly.

In a perfect world, the expenses of future years are paid for by the money hauled in during the previous. I do not know how perfect this world might be, but I do know that succeeding even once at parading Pagans down my main street would be boss. Traditionally there’s no admission charge for pride days, which is something I’d like to preserve. I also know that priming the pump is the first step regardless.

Perhaps there’s just no market for this kind of lavish event in this area. There’s anecdotal evidence that there are quite a few Pagans in the region (the village supports a metaphysical shop, and there are others in several nearby communities), but maybe they’re here and deeply closeted, maybe they’re not: we had three metaphysical shops just ten years ago, after all. Perhaps it’s pointless even to try. Perhaps I’m a fool for even thinking about going big or going home.

On the other hand, maybe I should start with something simpler, like a poison ivy festival.