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

About Nepal . . .


Dear Poseidon,

This whole Nepal thing has really been eating at me. I feel like I understand, and yet I don’t. These people, clinging to life on the sides of mountains, surely have enough challenges without the touch of Ennosigaios to wipe nearly everything they know from the face of the earth.

But.

Science makes clear what living on the slopes of the Himalayas brings with it. Nepal’s earthquakes are some of the most regular tectonic disruptions known. So regular, in fact, that I expect the eldest Nepalese remember a time, when they were young children, that the otherwise solid rock beneath their feet shook like curtains and rippled like water. The sharpest among them might even recall that their own grandparents and wizened elders told tale of the time when this happened when they were young children, skipping two and three generations, but never so many that none living could recall that earthquakes are nothing new. This greatest of mountain ranges is built upon plate tectonics, as India dives down beneath Asia, and such majesty does not arise without violence. In a way, the Nepalese are blessed like no other people, because they at least have a sense of when the inevitable shall occur. No one in California can say that.

But.

Widespread disaster never seems to touch our shores. The worst losses of life in my country have always been created by us, not the gods. In the United States, we have the knowledge and resources to prevent so many of the deaths once caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods . . . and yet countless thousands die in Ares’ name, or by human folly. Passion drives us to create more powerful weapons, more effective medicines, more troubling food systems, more potable water, more disconnection from the gods, and simultaneously more skepticism for the science that was supposed to replace them. I live in a great bubble, Basileus my king, that tries to muffle your influence but creates new forms of suffering to balance accounts. My life is nothing like that of a Nepalese family living high in mountain village that can only be reached by a thin ribbon of road, or perhaps a helicopter if one is available. Their struggles are not my struggles. The amount of money I make, the amount that sometimes keeps me awake at night worrying what the future might bring, is still more in most weeks than many Nepali workers earn in a year. Sheltered by industry and empire, even if I am ever in the crosshairs of your rage, Labrandeus, my life will still materially rebound much, much faster than it will over there. Part of me wonders if the people of Nepal haven’t been kicked in the teeth, either for no reason, for because they deserved it for reasons I cannot fathom.

But.

Death by landslide or cholera or malnutrition is not all that face the people of Nepal. As unwelcome as their suffering surely is, this quake is the sort of disaster that can bring humanity together, because its onset was sudden, its victims blameless, and its destruction is being relayed around the world. Whatever money is pooled to aid the Nepalese may or may not be enough to rebuild what was lost, but it’s arriving much faster than did relief for Ebola. Stories of aid supplies backlogged and not arriving in the remote villages where they are desperately needed is still better than stories of people dying because no help has been sent at all. Managing the logistics of compassion is worthy work, and I cannot help but believe that each attempt to work together on missions of aid elevates our entire species. Humanity’s spirit needs opportunities for elevation, but we are probably missing a lot of them. Are we so deep in our ruts that thousands of people need to die in a distant land before we are shaken out of our complacency, Ennosigaios? And why did you choose Nepal to set your clock by?

You are god of sudden change, Poseidon, and it can take a long time to learn the lessons that you unexpectedly bestow. May you grant at least the full eighty years to allow this one to sink in.

Thinking of you always,

TPW

Dear Poseidon


Dear Poseidon,

I got your message today. You obviously asked Hermes to deliver it, because it arrived when I was driving. That he’s all about travel and pranks, as well as communication, makes giving me a message when I can’t so much as write it down make a lot of sense. I’m not so sure about the ones that pop up when I’m in the shower, or otherwise indisposed, but that’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?

Anyway, the message, “You should compile a book of your letters to me,” presumes that I’ve been writing letters to you in the first place, which I’m sure you know I have not. I have to commend you on your hints, then: I think you’re starting to realize how useless subtle is around me. Lots of people are really good at recognizing signs and interpreting their meanings, but that first step is a pretty big sticking point for me. I can’t interpret what I never notice. I definitely notice that you think I should be writing letters, so here you go. I hope I do better than when I was sending mail home from college, but I’m not swearing any oaths about keeping this up, okay? I don’t make promises I don’t know I will keep.

Writing letters is a pretty good idea, though. I have so many questions for you, and I’m probably not the only one. I know people who get into conversations with their gods — you included — but that’s not how it works between you and I, is it? I hear from you when you deem the time is right, and by way of whatever means you consider appropriate. Your messages come through dreams, divination, and dropped right into my head, and it’s not lost on me that discernment is pretty important for all three. After all, I dream dreams that don’t come from you, most of my divination probably isn’t your doing, and sorting out the thoughts which didn’t start out in my cranium takes practice. No doubt you’re trying to train me to notice you when you’re subtle, too, by mixing it up. If I just write to you, though, I can control my message as much as you do yours. We might have to work on delivery methods, but even writing down words forces my thoughts to clarify. Well played.

This is just a short note, to let you know I got the message, and I’m on it. If I remember, I have a lot of questions about what’s going on in Nepal and the Mediterranean. There’s also a question of possession that I need to broach with you. I have to go now to write for The Man, but I’ll be getting back to you soon.

Take care,
TPW

End of the line


Nothing else interesting this way. Move along.

It was fun, but now it’s done.  Over the course of Maimakterion I wrote 33 hymns to Poseidon, including all the epithets I know were used for him in antiquity, several that I’ve been assured were or should have been used no matter what the limited records say, and a couple that I’m almost certain have not been uttered up until now.  I think this assignment was only to prepare me for two successive months of Poseideon, but as I write this I don’t know what is expected of me.  I don’t expect further daily demands upon my blog, but I haven’t actually asked yet.  (Divination might work, but I’m also a Quaker, and weekly worship is often where I get my messages.)

The product of this month’s work won’t be restricted to my blogging, though.  Astute readers may note that I have only posted 29 hymns here, but claim to have written 33.  (There’s also a bit of prose that came out, and I’m really excited it did, but even though I know what it’s trying to say, I barely understand it; clearly, it needs a wee bit of polish.)  I do intend on submitting the original 29 for consideration for inclusion in From the Roaring Deep.  I was excited when I learned about this anthology months ago, thinking it would make a good read, then I put it out of my mind.  A few days into my hymn-marathon it was again brought to my attention, and the fact that it opened for submissions during this month was not lost on me — I can be dense, but sometimes a sign is pretty clear.  Beyond that, I know I have more writing to do, because no matter what gets included in that worthy tome, I intend on putting out a collection of my own, one that will include the four I haven’t shown to anyone yet.

Once that book is published, I’m permitted to take on an additional name to mark that offering.

Being a simple guy, I’ve been stunned by the amount of interest and support this work has received.  I’ve seen over 60 hits on this blog some days, and a couple of my posts have nearly 10 comments!  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much to please me.)  Some people have given me particular support that is worthy of public gratitude.  They are:

  • My wife, who I am not naming just because I haven’t ever asked her if I could do that here.  She’s the one who first pointed out that I had a problem with Poseidon, even though she may not think that’s what she was doing, and despite being on a different path, her unwavering support of my religious life makes it all possible.
  • Sannion, the first person who called me on the fact that I really never talked about Poseidon.
  • My priest Timotheos, who pointed that that Poseidon also had noticed.
  • Jolene Poseidonae, who has been an enthusiastic cheerleader and constant inspiration.

The fact that I was experiencing a lot of repressed anger is less interesting to me than the assignment I was given to work on that:  write about him to learn about him, I was told.  I don’t [yet] think that my questions have been answered (except for that one Sannion got an answer to via divination; for some reason I never got the email and ultimately I decided I didn’t want it, not that way), but I now have some tools to help me ask better questions.

Almostheria


I wind up this month with libations to Hekate and my ancestors, making a Deipnon feast as I have now for several years at the dark of the moon.  The cycle has come ’round again, and the suns sets tonight upon the first of the lilies blooming in my yard.  Indeed, it is nearly time again for me to celebrate the festival of the lilies.  And again this year, I can’t help but wonder how this festival is related to Anthesteria.

The easy answer is nothing.  Anthesteria is a Dionysian festival of life, death, and a bit of craziness.  Dionysos has 2014-06-24 11.59.59recently had an impact on me (I no longer make my libations with grape juice because of him, in fact), but we’re not tight.  In the two years I’ve done so, I have used this festival to honor all of the gods, not just the one or those close to him.  This might be a better time of year to celebrate Anthesteria in my region, though, since it shows up in the miserable part of February, long before those grape vines are a’bloomin.  And that old Athenian festival has a strong kthonic component, which my celebration doesn’t.

Well, maybe more about death than I think.  Since I’ve been pondering ancestor questions, I can’t help but notice the collection of events which occur in my life in the weeks leading up to the lilies blooming.  Memorial Day, my father’s birthday and death day, marking the loss of my cat, anniversaries of other known ancestors.  It’s no wonder I feel close to my ancestors now, and it’s curious that it comes just before the blooming of the lilies.

Since I haven’t fixed the date of this festival, I am going to set aside the fifth of this Hellenic month for it.  That will be this coming Thursday.  By then I hope to have some insight:  is this just a leading towards more honoring of my ancestors, or a specific link between this festival and those ancestors?  Are there gods or spirits which I should, or should not, be honoring at this time?  Should I be hitting the grape juice again, or otherwise preparing special offerings?  Is this actually Anthesteria in a form which is regionally and culturally appropriate to my experience?  Or maybe some kind of Almostheria which inevitably ties the fleeting beauty of a flower with the fleeting essence of life itself?  Or does the timing of the blooms signal a rebirth after a period of honoring the blessed dead?  That suggests Persephone’s ascent to me, or the journey of a psychopompos.

These answers will come from knowledge of the past, awareness of myself, and discernment of the will of the gods.  Whether I unpack the nature of this festival in the next week or allow it to unfold over the next decade, the beauty will be as delicate as that of a tiger lily, which like other flowers can be appreciated up close or from afar, but is most beautiful when it is regarded in both ways at the same time.

It seems that the more I know, the more questions there are to ask — which is not a bad thing.