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,

From Naiadis: Poseidon of the Mysteries

One of the continuing benefits of writing hymns to Poseidon is that it got Naiadis of Strip Me Back To The Bone to do the same.  She’s also writing Poseidon fiction this month, so please check out her blog if you haven’t.

The gifts of the seas, which have fueled economies for as long as we’ve lived by the seas.  — from Poseidon of the Mysteries

That line caught my eye because my exploration of money is driven in part by the fact that this force upon which our societies are built obeys rules that we don’t begin to understand, because we think we made them all up.

Yes, Poseidon holds mysteries.  I don’t know if they were celebrated in the past, but the time to do so is fast coming upon us.

What role does mystery play in your tradition?

If I’m not mistaken, the idea of mysteries comes from Hellenic tradition, so there’s that.  Some percentage of Hellenic Pagans have embraced mysteries ever since, right up until the present day.  The question is about my tradition, and that’s the answer.  I haven’t personally been initiated into any Hellenic mysteries, but there is something itching at the edge of my brain which may change that fact at some point.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

Mysteries and modern Hellenismos

I’ve been learning more about the enduring mystery religions of ancient Greece, some of which lasted a thousand years or more.  These cults coexisted with the religion of the polis, as well as the household devotions each family practiced.  They were different from either one in that they required initiation; Hellenes didn’t otherwise see religion as a choice, any more than they thought they could choose the color of the sky.

Today, the three types of practice are a bit more blurred.  Initiations are not uncommon, but don’t always involve the sharing of secrets.  (Contrast that with the Eleusinian mysteries, the secrets of which were never written down, and remain unknown.)  The same groups which practice those initiations also tend to perform public rituals; in a society where not every citizen is already part of the religion, this makes sense. Honoring household gods such as Zeus Ktesios and Hestia is likewise taught by these groups to the new initiates, since they did not learn those rituals as children.

What we have in this amalgam is really sort of a modified mystery tradition, in that the querent is initiated to learn “secrets” which would have been common knowledge in days of old.  But the structure of mystery is not complete; more than initiation is needed for that.  Mysteries do involve secrets, and from what we have learned of some of the ancient mystery religions, those secrets sometimes involved significantly different beliefs than those taught publicly.  For example, the Orphics were vegetarians who avoided animal sacrifice and believed man to be descended from Dionysus.

There is room for more mystery religions under the umbrella of Hellenismos.  I believe that they can only strengthen the religious tradition as a whole.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter M.