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.

Thought I had whilst on a booze-related discussion pre-PLC

The Romans believed that the liver was the source of human emotion.

The ancient Hellenes may have known, as evidenced via the myth of Prometheus, that the liver can regenerate from damage.

In the myth of Prometheus, His liver is eaten by a large bird. (Depending on the regional variant, the exact bird may differ.)

Via Aristophanes, Eros is the father / creator of all birds.

From this, we can say that when Love leaves our emotions damaged, we can still heal. Or, if you prefer, Love alone won’t leave us irreparably damaged.

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.

Lene Lovich – “Bird Song”

A little bird told me, you were untrue
Even though, I had, faith in you
I believe, the liars words
Oh the same little bird

So with the bird, one day, you flew away
I woke up, too late, you had gone
Fading on with this song
Of the hurting little bird

Still I watch the sky
Still I wonder why
Still I hope that I…
Can carry on…
If I can’t be strong
If you hear my song
you’ll know that it was wrong, to say good bye…

Such a cold bird, so hard, captured your heart
Does it matter, I am, falling apart
Breaking fast, as the flesh
Of the dead little bird

Still I watch the sky…

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.

Violets

Poseidon had a daughter with Pitane, the nymphe of a Laconian spring of a city She gave Her name to. Pitane named the girl Euadnê, and Euadnê grew to be quite beautiful, and she was raised in the Arkadian palace. As Euadnê grew older, Apollon became smitten, and asked Pitane to arrange that He could perhaps lay with Her daughter, and, with joy, Pitane agreed and took delight in dressing Her daughter for the occasion.

When Apollon lay with Euadnê, He believed He was clear to communicate His identity, but Euadnê, unaware of who her real father was believed she was completely mortal and didn’t really believe Him, and having never eaten the sweet nectar of Olympos she was more mortal than the deathless ones, so perhaps it was in her best interest not to, as she was certainly aware of the fate of Semele. When Euadne became full with child, she hid it from her parents, and when the time came, she bore the boy alone and took him far beyond the palace, leaving him in a patch of violets, in hope that someone would find him, and give him a decent life.

On Euadne’s walk home that night, her step-father had a dream that she had given birth to the son of Apollon and had left it in abandoned amongst the tiny purple flowers. When Euadne returned home, the king greeted her and then sent her back out to retrieve the boy. When she arrived, a shepherd had found the child, intending to raise him alone.

“But this is my son,” Euadne pleaded, weeping. “My father tells me I have born the son of Apollon and I must take him back home to retain the god’s favour over Arkadia.”
“But you exposed the child to the elements at the outskirts after carrying him for over half a year; I have been with the boy for barely five mi utes and have already given him a name. I had a vision of a child amongst the wildflowers and when I awoke I felt compelled to find it. Apollon gave me this son to raise as my own and finally make my family happy, by giving them a grandson.”
“If you truly want the child and to become part of his life, my father can have us married. You would receive a handsome dowry for saving the boy.”

After a moment to consider this, the shepherd agreed to return with Euadne to the palace and formalise the engagement with her father that the girl had offered. The engagement was announced, and the wedding was big and lavish.

The boy was named Iamos, after the violet patch, and like this step-father, received visions and prophecies. This gift later led him to Olympia, where he established the Iamidai, the House of the Violets, which continued for centuries in ancient times to hold prophecies and oracles of Apollon.

The violet is sacred to Apollon, and the colour named after it is the colour of prophecy, divination, fate. I’ve always linked it to the Moirai.

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.

Ailourophile Hellenes Unite!

It’s an old article, and maybe not technically “twoo Hewwenic Wecunstwuctionism” (in a sec…), but I liked it, and thought I’d share:

Neolithic Kypriots apparently domesticated the cat before Egypt —or, rather, Neolithic Far Mediterranean settlers to Kyprus, which we should all know by now was destined to be Hellenised.

It certainly does seem an intriguing coincidence that Kyprus is the location of the oldest known example of feline domestication, is the birthplace of Aphrodite (and Adonis), and cats —in modern Western symbolism (with the most likely known source being Egypt’s fertility goddess, Baast)— tend to represent sexuality —typically feminine sexuality.

I therefore posit that cats are Aphrodite’s little fascist jerk-holes, given to us by the Goddess Herself to treat us like crap, ruin our furniture, and yet be somehow so entertaining and endearing that even after creating the technology to blast them all into space, we sent our closest genetic relatives out there, first. Clearly, we’re been duped by the fairest of the Kyprian Goddesses into Her worship —some of the most humiliating, I might add— by giving man cats.

For once, I think Mediaeval Christianity may have been on to something.

I have a very pissy little cat....

Chunk, giving us her Evil Eye

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.

Satin sheets the colour of aubergine

I sleep on a futon (which is the mattress and blankets, actually) that rests on a Western-style frame that folds into a couch during the day. In all honesty, I can’t think of a time in my adult life, not counting the times I’ve slept in a lover’s bed or couch-surfed, where I’ve slept on anything but. For years, I had a hotel-style bedspread —something more decorative than comfortable to snuggle under— that I folded over the edge of my futon to protect it and make it look better. There are futon mattress covers, but they’ve always been out of my budget. Standard sheets on a futon can be problematic.

A few weeks ago, a large hole started in the bedspread. This is fair enough, as I’ve had it since I was fourteen, and I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. Still, as unsurprising as this was, it left me in a state of needing to replace it.

I went to Big Lots, as I tend to do when I’m looking for something relatively inexpensive for the house. Long before I discovered an embryonic hole in my bedspread, I had noticed a set of aubergine-coloured satin sheets sized for a full size mattress (the dimensions of my futon) at this store. I wanted them from the first time I saw them, but I didn’t have a “proper” bed for them, and I didn’t want to spend $20 on an uncertainty last year. When I arrived a few days ago to replace my bedspread, “my” sheet set was still there —possibly the longest time I’d ever seen anything stay on the shelves at any Big Lots, ever, and a young couple was looking for sheets. The girl wanted the aubergine satin lovelies on grounds that “they’re pretty”, but her boyfriend talked her out of them on grounds of “they’re impractical”, and she put them back without protest.

Eros invented satin bedding. I know cos He told me so. The surface is slick like the most intimate of a lover’s touch, and the natural creases that form in a pillowcase, when made of satin, feels like kisses. Opaque, but deceptively thin and form-fitting, what the material hides reveals everything. When made of silk, or even synthetics, it’s very strong, but easy to snag. Even when it’s cheap, it feels luxurious and expensive. How can this not be one of Eros’ gifts to humanity?

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.

All’s fair in Love

This was one of my favourite birds, at least aesthetically, as a child, and it continues to fascinate me now. The Superb Lyrebird, named so for its tail-feathers that resemble Apollon’s famed instrument, is also a splendid mimic imitating a variety of sounds including, but far from limited to other bird songs.

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.

Why “Queer”, but not “Pagan”?

I love etymology, and this leads me to often thinking of the words I use very carefully before using them. I don’t call heterosexual “straight” by default, because “straight” in this use does not simply mean heterosexual: It means “normal”, “not a criminal”, “sober”, and it evolved from criminal and drug subcultures. As homosexuality is no longer criminalised in the First World, to call heterosexuals “straight” is to reinforce homophobia, I dare say it is even an act of homophobia.

…but I digress.

First off, while I dislike the term “pagan” based on a loaded etymology, and I absolutely do not feel like it is the best word to describe my religion, I do occasionally resign to it out of convenience and knowing full well that even though it may be one of those instances where it’s simply easier than going on a long discussion I don’t want to be in (or I would have made that discussion happen and not said “I’m pagan”), I do so with the knowledge that I’m inviting in all of these assumptions people are going to make about me that are, by and large, not an accurate way to describe me or my religion at all.

While there is certainly a reinforcing etymology to these assumptions of others’, the major reason for these assumptions is the self-reinforcing stereotyping that runs rampant in the community of self-identified pagans. The fact of the matter is, the “mainstream” idea that pagans are nature-worshipping hippies dancing barefoot in the woods is because an overwhelming majority of self-identified pagans fit that description, and tend to be a bit less-than-accepting of anybody under the “pagan umbrella” who doesn’t fit that description. This is the primary reason for such a rift between the pagan community and polytheists of the recon method: A majority of “recons” are urban or at least non-rural in that they neither naturally feel nor feel any desire to need an especial spiritual connection with the rustic or even wild lands to properly practise their religion, whose who may identify as urban tend to have an especially spiritual connection to cities. A lot of “recons” are centrist, conservative, or are urban liberals who recognise that sustainable living is that of either the farm or the metropolis, the suburbs where many self-identified “pagans” actually live being an abomination.

I definitely see an emerging “post-reconstructionism” movement in the polytheist community, wherein people realise that the reconstructionist method, when applied strictly, can be limiting and allow for little (if anything) in the way of spirituality in tune with modern realities, but that does not necessarily mean that the community of self-identified “pagans” is necessarily going to be the best place for such people, especially those of us who neither have nor want nor need to have a deep spiritual void filled with the kind of minor (or major) woo that can only be found tilling the land of a homestead farm or deep in the woods and miles from civilisation.

Personally? I’ve had times where I’ve tried to get that, but I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually allergic to the woods. One cannot make that connection happen if it’s not meant to, no matter how much one tries, no matter how much one has to fill oneself with antihistamine just to be clear-headed enough to not only be perceptive of that connection, if it’s to come, but make sure it’s meaningful. I mean, who knows? For all I know, maybe all that Zyrtec and Zatador drops and nasal sprays and various creams block that connection —but if being without all that antihistamine makes it hard to breathe in a rural place, then maybe I’m just not meant to have that sort of connection to nature? Maybe I really am better off without it, and the Theoi are just fine with that?

…but some-one recently asked me why I liberally self-aply the term “Queer”, but not pagan —after all, these two words both have virtually the same histories! Well, except that they don’t.

No, really. They don’t.

The word “queer” comes from German (versus “paganus” coming from Latin), meaning “oblique, off-centre” and has a possible relation to “quer”, meaning “odd”. The first recorded use of “queer” relating to homosexuality only dates to 1922 after the word “queer” was introduced to English around 1500, when “paganus” was first adopted as a slur against non-Christians during the Holy Roman empire!

Then there’s the fact that, based on etymology alone, I’m very Queer. Even amongst the subcultures I’ve found myself at home in, I’ve never epitomised any of them: Too dark for most Mods, too polished and classic for most Goths, too erudite for most punks, and too modern and urban for the overwhelming majority of pagans and polytheists. Even as a gay man, well, I’m of TS history, which makes me the sort of potential sexual partner many other gay men want nothing to do with. As a man of TS hostory, I’m enough of an effete that most of them will still call me “ma’am”, even after told that’s inappropriate. How any of this makes me unstrange, unqueer, seems rather, well, queer to me. If any-one has a right to re-claim “queer” from a status of slur (and a relatively new one —the term was rather benign prior to it’s GBLT associations), I think I can objectively say that I sure as hell do.

On the other hand, what right do I have to “pagan”? If this is a term that evolved from the Latin equivalent of “redneck” or “hillbilly” and now possesses a baggage that includes a highly implict and (very easily argued) enforced community meaning of “nature-worshipping”, then no, it doesn’t fit me in the slightest. A Google Image search for “pagan” or a perusal of Wikipedia’s article on Neopaganism and its contemporary photos reveals how deeply “nature religion” is synonymous with the contemporary pagan community, to the point that “urban paganism” is such a tiny niche market that only three books have ever been published on the suvject —one currently out-of-print (Patricia Telesco’s The Urban Pagan), and one is so lousy with a strong and unapologetic rural bias that, as I know my own spiritual realities, it’s riddled with fallacious misinformation (pretty much the entire Introduction to R. Kaldera & T. Schwartzstein’s The Urban Primitive is a biased screed hailing the woodlands and damning the urban lands as a bringer of doom and ailments both physical and spiritual, though it gets a little better, it’s not by much). I don’t even think the pagan community thinks they’re being as unwelcoming and prejudiced as, in practise, they really are, but when the reality of this not merely ostensible, but blatant and celebrated bias is something that one must deal with at every venture into the “pagan community”, hoping to touch based with co-religionists, other devotees of one’s patron, and those walking an otherwise similar spiritual path, then not only is it apparent that one’s spirituality is regarded as “queer and perverse” in the pre1922 sense, but also one that’s regarded as lesser and hollow, false and silly, then yes, I think I can say that I don’t have any incentive to try and rationalise any claim to the term “pagan”, as it’s being made abundantly clear that I only barely qualify —like the cisgender gay man who likes to make it perfectly clear that he’s normal, and not one of those icky fem gays or trannies, that he was in a fraternity in uni and captain of the gridiron team, and his name is Cleancut McNormaldude and just happens to be somehow “queer”. R~i~g~h~t…..

In fact, I roll my eyes at Cleancut McNormaldude attempting to claim he’s “queer” rather than “gay“, if not “homosexual” or “bisexual” are words he feels suit him, because that’s not a word that gives any accurate nuances that describe him outside of only one of the implied meanings, at best, that he’s practically watered-down the meaning of “queer” to strip it of all nuance and render it nothing more than a meaningless synonym.

When one truly loves vocabulary, it becomes apparent that even words that seem synonymous have these nuances that make their meanings truly different, even if in seemingly minor ways. These numances are important, as any Paganism & Witchcraft 101 book worth the paper they’re printed on have said before me. To say “crone” when “hag” is best can render a ritual or spell useless or change it completely, so why call myself “pagan” when it carries with it not only an etymology but a common, every-day use that implies so many things that I am not and only one thing that I am (polytheist, practising a pre-Christian religion)? Why should I not use Queer when it can easily cover all sorts of nuances about my personality and character in addition to my sexual predilections?

If you’re going to say anything at all, say it the best way that you can.

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.