Merry Kitsch-mas

Yeah, i know that evergreens have a long-standing place in many pagan and polytheist traditions, and there are certainly some pine and fir species native to Greece and Her ancient colonies, but damned if I can find much suggesting that either are specifically sacred to this time of year. And let’s check the weather in modern Thespiai for this time of the year; not very analogous to Ypsilanti, MI, is it?

…but I love the kitcshy metallic decorative trees, I do, and adapting to the local ways is, at least to some extent, a part of the ancient tradition —and for certain definitions to “local”, kitsch is very much a part of U.S. culture that I can respect (just look at how many John Waters films I inflict on unsuspecting friends). So I adapt the kitschy tree to celebrate the new year, and reflect my Boeotian and Hedonist religion.

I pick out my ornaments very carefully: Birds for Eros, Butterflies for Psykhe, and Jewels for Hedone. The colours are a little less meaningful; purple is my favourite colour, and I’ve come to associate blues with Eros, and the two compliment each-other well. The arrangement is also made with an aesthetic quality in mind (and frankly, while I liked making cheesy little ornaments as a kid, I always HATED the appearance of the typical “family tree”, with a lot of sentimental ornaments, and no sense of appearance in mind –I remember asking my mother several times why we didn’t have those gorgeous, colour-themed trees decorated with gossamer ribbons and coordinated ornaments in the displays at the stores and in some magazines, and she never gave me a straight answer and always added “when you grow up and get your own tree, you can decorate it however you like”. Good. I will. And it’ll be a better tree! With blackjack! And hookers!)

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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Lavender, and Violets, and Blues! Oh my!

I associate shades of blue and purple with Eros. In the last five years alone, I’ve gone through red periods and white periods, and even a pink period (my first one ever), but I always come back to purples — specifically the more bluish-hue shades.

But lavender works better for rooms than plums, cos it’s lighter and not quite as cool and makes the room feel bigger and more inviting.

Lavender is also an herb, aromatic, that has long held a reputation as a feminising agent. The science behind this belief is actually poorly misunderstood, because phytoestrogents in plants don’t work that way, but controversy remains because skin toxicity only occurs at low levels, in vitro toxicity only occurs to tje foetus’ skin, and studies suggesting it possesses antiandrogenic properties are few and the active element in lavender oil has not exactly been isolated. The ancient Hellenes called the herb nard and learned of its aromatherapy properties as a relaxant and in The Song of Songs, nard is listed as one of the ingredients of the Holy Essence.

My bed, when I’m not in it. (on the bed and left-of-centre, my hand-made pyjamas)

Speaking of Eros and purple, it seems my associations are not that unfounded, as a British study that suggests a correlation between purple bedrooms and more frequent “intimate encounters”. And this includes bedlinen, too. And apparently silk sheets, and presumably satin sheets are included too, also show a correlation of increased boop-oop-a-doop. Personally, I don’t think I’ve noticed a correlation, myself, but hey, I also understand how averages work.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Eros Oracle Deck

I got this deck from a friend for my birthday. It impresses and amuses me for some fairly obvious reasons, and if you can see, you know that one of those reasons is the integration of 1920s Art Deco-influenced illustration. I’d suggest that the creator was spying on me, but the copyright year is 2007, technically predating even this blog. I’m tempted to file this loose association of mine under Shared Gnosis, but I know nothing about the creator and how they regard Eros, as a deity.

I say that I know nothing about how the creator regards Eros because the deck and little information pamphlet included mention nothing of Deity, but this could just be secularising it for greater marketability. The recommended divination in the pamphlet is also only concerning itself with relationships, but the symbolism is theoretically multi-purpose, and I can already think of other ways to use this.

At first, my favourite thing about this deck is the art —I’m just really not that into cartomancy, because I find the pre-set symbolism kind of restricting, in a way. I understand that some degree of intuition is necessary for any good divination, including cartomancy, but the fact that you’re building this intuition off an only moderately-random (at best) draw of pre-designed and selected images, whereas, say, tasseomancy is completely random in the symbols it can produce (and what those symbols actually are is often up to the interpretation and intuition of the diviner), and hydroscrying is also completely random and utilising no concrete symbolism, but a demi-trance state, I find giving divination from cartomancy harder for myself to trust —as it relies on my abilities to interpret someone else’s symbols in regards to the situation— but at the same time, I also occasionally do the Homeric or Greek alphabet oracles, and those are essentially the same principle of pulling meanings from an incredibly limited range of symbolism.

Here’s a scan of some of my favourite cards:

According to Tarot Dame, this deck is also available with an accompanying (limited edition?) book sold with some decks, which neither she nor I have seen, but I did just find a seller who has it at a price I can do, assuming it sticks around.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Isadora Duncan: Touched by Terpsicore

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.
The true dance is an expression of serenity;
it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion.
Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action;
it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed,
and it unfolds with a gentle slowness.
The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement
that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth.” Isadora Duncan

I’ve been fascinated with the 1920s since I was a little kid and delighted in the occasional Chaplin film on cable, so it’s not at all surprising that I’d come across the career of Isadora Duncan.

Duncan is regarded as the creator of Modern Dance (though in dance communities, this is sometimes hotly debated). While Modern Dance performances are clearly similar to ballet in some ways, the Modern Dance movement in the early 1900s was born from a distaste that many dancers had with what they perceived as a rigidity and “unnatural movement” in classical ballet. While there are now several schools of Modern Dance, Duncan’s dance was based on the dance depicted in ancient Hellenic pottery, sculpture, Graeco-Roman mosaics and neo-Classical Renaissance art and sculpture.

If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature, we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past, the dance of eternity, and has been and always will be the same… The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever the same lasting harmony.” Isadora Duncan

Though she did have formal teachers giving her a background in classical dance, she ultimately rejected much of this training for improvisation and a sort of Neo-Pagan Romanticism. She once famously proclaimed that the Goddess Aphrodite Herself taught Ms Duncan in the art of dance on the beaches of California.

Her parents were once wealthy, but became rather poor shortly after Isadora’s birth, when her father lost his bank; her parents later divorced when she was seven-years-old. The experience of growing up impoverished, she and her mother and sister giving music and dance lessons to support the family, likely bred her Communist ideals, which would later lead her to defect to Russia. In spite of gaining Russian citizenship, she lived her last years in France, as well as a significant portion of her life prior.

“There are likewise three kinds of dancers: first, those who consider dancing as a sort of gymnastic drill, made up of impersonal and graceful arabesques; second, those who, by concentrating their minds, lead the body into the rhythm of a desired emotion, expressing a remembered feeling or experience. And finally, there are those who convert the body into a luminous fluidity, surrendering it to the inspiration of the soul.” ~Isadora Duncan

Despite being clearly a subversive influence on the world of artistic dance, she never completely fit in with Bohemian crowds, but her free-spiritedness and natural draw to shake up convention kept her from truly assimilating into high society. In some respects, her nature could be seen as Dionysian.

Though posthumously, she’s been idealised by some as a sort of radical femme-inist of the school of “sisters doin’ for themselves” because her dance schools were famously all-girl, early on she sought to include boys amongst her pupils of dance and philosophy, but ultimately, it was financiers who made the decision for her single-sex education in dance, and men trained in a lineage that can be traced back to Isadora Duncan herself, while increasing in number, are still rare; I know of only one male dancer to have ever been directly taught by Duncan herself. While examinations of her personal life definitely show many feminist sympathies (and also a bisexual with at least one noteworthy and passionate affair with another woman), she refrained from identifying her socio-political ideaologies as anything more than Communist, Socialist, or Marxist, which is easily argued to be inherently feminist, if not explicitly, much less radically so. The ultimate downfall of her schools, though, was her idealism; even her school in Moscow at a time of the early days of Russia’s totalitarian form of Communism suffered financially because the state had not yet made a suitable provision for the arts that could keep the school afloat, and Duncan was so firm in her belief that commercial performances cheapened the artistry she taught students to value, that she’d just as soon close a school left in the charge of a star pupil than tolerate her students performing on a commercial stage. In honour of her value of art over money, Duncan legacy dance troupes are largely non-profit.

Love is an illusion; it is the world’s greatest mistake. I ought to know for I’ve been loved as no other woman of my time has been loved. -Isadora Duncan

Her style of dance she always stressed to be very natural in its approach to the movements of the body, and improv is a major element to Duncan’s style of modern dance (though the choreography is often surprisingly intricate). Emotion and the expression of through the whole body with dance is another defining characteristic of Duncan’s style. Unlike ballet, which tends to place greater value on women dancers who are especially light-weight, and often with an unspoken mantra of “the lighter the better”, Duncan dance values any body that can move with the natural grace and convey the emotions integral to a piece; though this often means fans of ballet and some other dance regard Duncan dancers as “fat” and “out-of-shape”, the inherent athleticism in Duncan dance illustrate that Duncan dance not only keeps one in good physical condition, but also that the movements celebrate all shapes and sizes of graceful. Typically performing in bare feet, hops, skips, leaps, and arm movements tend to be regarded as the most basic elements of Duncan dancing, and Grecian-inspired dance costume is clearly preferred by Duncan herself, and those continuing to dance in her lineage.

The only surviving / known film taken of her dancing is not only extremely short, but clearly gives more attention to Isadora’s costume adjustment than her dance, which is shown as little more than a few hops. The circumstances under which this film was shot, I do not know; it’s likely that it was an experiment taken by a friend, or perhaps setting up the equipment took so long she had become tired. This is certainly not representative of the great dancer that shook up the art world and caused a sensation in the Early Twentieth. For more representitive video, there is no shortage of video of dancers of the Isadora Duncan legacy.

Interestingly, for all of Duncan’s glorifications of the Greeks, Aphrodite, Eros, the Moisai, the Khairetes, and all her applause for the wisdom of the Greeks and the inherent natural beauty of her reconstructed Greco-Roman dance, the music she selected, and that is still popular with dancers of the Duncan legacy, is movements by Romantic composers, and often music not written with dance performances in mind. This rather odd choice, all things considered, still lends to a graceful and beautiful interpretation of the music, I can’t help but wish to see Duncan dance performed with reconstructed Greco-Roman music.

Off the stage, Duncan was a flamboyant character, being practically immune to the typical ill effects of scandal, and a well-regarded eccentric. She rejected Christianity for Classical and Neitzchian philosophy, eagerly entertained Romantic Neo-Pagan imagery of her own character, and often read tarot cards for friends, strangers, and herself. Still, for all her fabulous life, it was marked with great tragedy; her marriages ended bitterly, her children died in a tragic automobile accident, her own life cut short when her excessively long scarf she regarded as something of a trademark wrapped around the axle of her Amilcar, choking her, then snapping her neck, then nearly dragging her body down the street just as her lover realised what was wrong. She died at fifty, but not before leaving an indelible impression on not only dance, but all of the arts (having inspired painters and sculptors).

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

New Year’s Resolutions

Post more!
Yeah, that should be obvious… Moving along now….

Make some clothes.
My philosophical calling is that of a dandy, an aesthete, and I’m very hard to fit, being short and stocky. I have a 21″ inside leg, and my shoes are a UK5½ (or USM6wide). Making shoes is not one of my goals, but making at least two suits is a goal I’ve set for this year —one summer, one winter. It’s been a while since I’ve sewed, and my machine is currently in repair, but the only reason it’s in repair is cos it jammed up when I attempted to mend some curtains to test it (the repair shop assured me that the jam was not my fault, but cos the machine had probably gone years without a tune-up) — I’m impressed with how much I remembered, so even if I don’t end up finishing a full two suits, I’ll be further along than some-one who’s never done this before.

Improve my physical state.
I’m grateful every day that, unlike two of my sisters, I’m not so fat I cannot breathe properly, nor have I ever been, but I could stand to look better, and as an aesthete, I’m expected to. There’s a gym in fair walking distance from me, and it doesn’t require signing a contract to use their facilities; it’s inexpensive and if I’m dreadfully broke, I can skip a month.

I really have no excuses at this point.

Resume work on the garden.
Hopefully taking a little exercise will improve my abilities to do more in the garden, but I’m not expecting miracles, as it was likely my crooked spine (and not any fat bastard-related aches and paints) that kept me from doing too much in 2011.

Continue to celebrate love, life, beauty…
…in all forms.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 24 ~ Personal aesthetics and Hellenismos

How do I answer this?

Personally, I can’t think of any sort of aesthetics that would be prohibited by any sort of traditional polytheism. Hell, one of my friends is a Hindu and has been gravitating toward the Horrorcore scene, and while I think most of the fans of that scene look like they just rolled out of bed, you know, I can’t think of anything from what I know of Hindu religions, much less Hellenic polytheistic religions, that would outright prohibit dressing like an evil clown and spraying your friends with soda.

Granted, that’s not to say that it’s all “anything goes”, especially when one is of especial cultus to gods whose domain includes aesthetic arts. I generally put time and effort into my own appearance — even my “wearing rags to do yard work” look isn’t complete until I’ve taken a light shower, washed my face (including toner and moisturiser), lip balm, sunblock, my hair tied back, and a handkerchief to dab (never wipe) sweat — and expect any-one practising a traditional Hellenic polytheism, and so generally understanding of ancient Hellenic ideals, to do so, as well. I don’t expect such others to dress in any of the same ways I do, but I do expect to notice at least some minimum amount of effort toward an intentional appearance, at least most of the time. That appearance can be “soccer mom” or “misanthropic quasi-goth” or anything outside or in-between.

I’ve always been an aesthete and quite a dandy. As a little kid, I delighted in getting “dressed up” and would think of any excuse to do so. When I switched to a state junior high and high school, I became one of those kids who went nuts now that I didn’t have to wear a school uniform, in spite of the efforts of nearly every adult in my life at the time begging with me to knock it off with the flamboyance — apparently, I’d have “plenty of time” to look like Marc Bolan after I became an adult.

While I’m hard pressed to instantaneously recognise any explicit relationship between my Mod dandyism and Hellenismos, if I think about it just a little, it really all makes perfect sense:

*Beau Brummel, often regarded as the archetypical dandy, caused a sensation when he abandoned the powdered wig (long before a tax on the powder caused it to fall out of fashion) and decided to wear his natural hair cut “à la Brutus” — calling to mind images of ancient Rome.
*Lord Byron fought for Greek independence
*Oscar Wilde praised the ancient Hellenes on all levels.
*Colin MacInnes’ novel Absolute Beginners, long-influential in the Mod subculture includes a supporting character referred to only as “The Fabulous Hoplite” and described as have a “Caesarian” haircut, which remains somewhat popular in Mod circles.

The Hellenic influence on Dandy subcultures has always existed, and though the clothing often associated is a far cry with the reality of ancient painted stoneworks, it’s easily reasoned that the “fabulous simplicity” of the now-white statuary and columned temples was an influence on the lines and daring use of solid colours from Beau Brummel to Oscar Wilde to Pete Meaden.

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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.