Start Your Week Off Right: A Round-Up

In continuation on my celebration of urban spirituality, Lupa posted something last month in No Unsacred Space that I just love:

You notice how the URL for this section of the Pagan Newswire Collective has the word “nature” in it? Of course. It’s specifically for nature-based pagan religious and spiritual discussions and ideas. I would bet that the majority of people who think of “nature” are thinking of open areas that have a minimum of human impact, where the signs of humanity are reduced or even almost entirely eradicated. And I feel that’s a grave shortcoming in our perceptions.

I want to share with you one of my very favorite quotes. It’s a statement by Richard Nelson, quoted in The Sacred Earth: Writers on Nature and Spirit, edited by Jason Gardner (emphasis mine):

It’s dangerous to think of ourselves as loathsome creatures or as perversions in the natural world. We need to see ourselves as having a rightful place. We take pictures of all kinds of natural scenes and often we try to avoid having a human being in them…In our society, we force ourselves into a greater and greater distance from the natural world by creating parks and wilderness areas where our only role is to go in and look. And we call this loving it. We lavish tremendous concern and care on scenery but we ignore the ravaging of environments from which our lives are drawn.

This is a perfect image of how we have separated ourselves from the rest of nature. Not separating ourselves from nature, but separating ourselves from the rest of nature.

So much of that post is quote-worthy, and I just don’t have the space to do it, so GO! READ! NOW!

…but if you want any evidence that everything I listed here is true, then look no further than the comments from readers. On the good side, it does seem to cut about 50/50 (though in part for myself, but still a reassuring percentage with self removed), but there are still some of the nastiest, most hateful, prejudiced, and frankly uneducated comments are from those who extol the assumed “purity” of the pastoral existence. No such thing from any-one who has voiced communing with the city.

For those who could not discern some of the finer nuances of Lupa’s first post, she made a more recent follow-up, which (to those who’ve read neither) may also lay to rest most gut reactions made in bias against the concept of the city as an ecosystem and the urban divine. Keep in mind, there is FAR more to read than just this quote:

–Telling urban dwellers that they’re bad people for living in cities, or that they can’t be as good a bunch of environmentalists as rural people, or otherwise playing who’s superior to whom, is counterproductive. Insulting someone or insinuating that you’re better than they are is a great way to alienate them. Not a good idea with potential allies. If you assume that cities are full of people who are self-centered, materialistic, corrupted, etc. then you’ve already started on the path to alienating them. Same thing with assuming all rural areas are full of nothing but small-minded hyper-conservative bigots. And so forth.

It’s funny cos it’s true.

Oh, and here are some hideous Orphic cakes.

OK, you didn’t deserve that, here, look at these gorgeous peacock wedding cakes, instead. Or maybe these Valentine cakes?

Oh, and it’s technically posted on a “Wreck” day, but I love it: Happy V-Day!

I also love this Metropolis-inspired dress, and did I mention that Dieselpunk Athene really helped enamour me to that style?

I also found some magazine PHOTOPLAY magazine covers from the 1920s (click for more):

Looking through blog posts I missed on Google Reader, I also came across this great little fic/revised mythology piece by Laura:

Adonis looked up at her, his dark green eyes inquisitive. She knew he wanted to hear the story. She was certain he had heard it before, but she knew he liked to hear her tell it.

“Yeah. It is all Aphrodite’s fault. My mother had made it quite clear that I was never to be married off like some commoner. She wanted me to be elevated to the very pinnacle of the Greek pantheon – an eternal virgin like Hestia, Athena and Artemis.” Adonis smiled a little and so Persephone responded, “you better believe I’m glad that didn’t happen!

The Barking Shaman shares his photo gallery. Here’s a taste of one of my favourites from the “Manmade” section —and that abandoned theatre he shot is seriously full of nymphai:
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
(clicking the photo should direct you straight to the gallery in question —I tested it to make sure!)

And finally, from the blogosphere, Dieselpunk Encyclopedia honours the passing of illustrator Vladimir Ozerny, a visual artist clearly inspired by and in love with transportation tech, skyscrapers, Deco, and revolutionary posters.

Vladimir Ozerny. Tower 2

ALSO:
Fuck it, if you haven’t read those posts by now, I’m not going to subject you to them. Too many people just fucking angered me, and I’m stepping AWAY.

Just in case you were curious:
I spent most of this last week on my humanoid meat-based housemate’s computer, because my motherboard and/or CPU died, though technically, I got the replacement of the ones I got a little over a year ago at this time for the same damned problem used, so it’s not that surprising. My hard-drive was still intact, so yay, but the computer is now less-functional to my needs (like music, as in making it) than I’ve had in a whole year now. I’m finding myself waffling between making up for slow progress last year with the garden or basically replacing what I need to on the computer to get it back to where I need it to be. I will keep you posted.

Shit you’ve probably read already:
* Aphrodite’s Priestess: Dancing the Divine
* Aphrodite’s Priestess: A is for Aseria
* And lastly, I’m getting caught up on my comics, here are some oldies-but-goodies:
….Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles: The Origin of Humanity
….Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles: Working for yourself
Hyperbole & a Half: Adventures in Depression (This is sort of what it’s like for me EVERY WINTER, and the harsher the winter, the worse it gets. I’m so sick of the ableist rhetoric of re-imagining Seasonal Affective Disorder as “go a bit crazy, then shake [one’s] fists and demand retribution”.)
XKCD: The Orion Nebula

Your New Old Word For the Week:
Macrography: n, from Greek makros (long or large) and graphein (to write): abnormally large handwriting, sometimes indicating a nervous disorder. Jules is pretty obnoxious, so his macrography doesn’t surprise me in the least.

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.

Adonis & The Phoenix

[An aside to the Boeotian Theoi blog project.]

As I alluded in my previous post, I’ve been noticing a vague connection between Adonis and the Phoenix as recognised in Hellenic myth. As per Herodotus and Ovid, the phoenix is reborn from an encasement in myrrh (Ovid also includes herbs), and myrrh is an important part of the story of Adonis’ birth.

A surviving fragment of Hesiod‘s Ehoiai describes Adonis’ parents as “Phoenix and Alphesiboea”, though this is identified as Phoenix, son of Agenor. Still, it was mis-remembering this fragment that inspired this painting of mine.

As well as the mythological connections of being born from an encasement of myrrh (think about it, it’s a tree resin, and Adonis is typically described as being born literally from myrrh bark, which has to be cut into to gather the resin; myrrh resin was basically His amniotic fluid), Adonis and the phoenix basically both have life-death-rebirth mythologies (though Theoi Project ignores Adonis’ veneration as a deity [yet, oddly, accepts Kybele as being thoroughly Hellenised], even a vague familiarity with the Adonia is enough proof of not only His being regarded as reborn, but also of deification), even if you consider Herodotus’ rather bizarre account of a younger phoenix encasing its deceased father in myrrh, thus becoming the father to the reborn phoenix (as well as its own grandpa — holy shit, the ancient Greeks really did invent everything).

Interestingly, though the phoenix is typically described as being a variegated saffron-to-scarlet colour, there’s an anthropological theory identifying the phoenix with Old World Flamingoes (and this theory is apparently supported by biologists naming the order, family, and genus of all species of flamingo) because the salt flats where flamingoes are fond of nesting can become far too hot for humans, or many (if any) other predators to walk across, and anybody who’s watched the air over an outdoor grill in the summer would know that the extra-hot air sort of “dances”, which could create the illusion of flame. To protect the egg from the heat, flamingoes build nests of mud, which keep the egg cool enough not to cook, but which could also look like perhaps a mound of ash from a distance. The Greater Flamingo, which is native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and SW Asia (making it the most widespread flamingo), does have variegated colouring, even if not matching the classical description of the phoenix. In fact, the Hellenistic mosaic above (found in the former ancient suburb of Daphne, in what is now Antakya, Turkey) certainly seems to support the identification with flamingoes and the phoenix.

Though initially an association I formed from a mis-remembering, I’ve grown to further and further associate the phoenix with Adonis, and I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but simply couldn’t think of an appropriate moment to post it.

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.

Ares & Aphrodite & Adonis & The Phoenix

Eros was out with Aphrodite, and the Goddess commented on the body of Ares as He practised His battle exercises, and pondered out loud to Her friend how exciting it would be to be in his arms and beneath Him. You see, as much as She loved and took satisfaction from doting on Her husband, Hephaistos, while the Smith of the Theoi had great arms, that was about it — he was dwarven and his spine crooked, and His face so far from conventionally attractive that His own parthenogenic mother was said to have thrown the quasimodian child from Olympos, crippling Him. Aphrodite alone saw a beauty in Him beyond the gifts He fashioned for Her, and truly loved Him, but He was merely a good husband: Reliable, well-providing, and They shared a bond almost familial. Ares, on the other hand, She suggested to Eros, would make a magnificient lover: Exciting, daring, and what She’d heard from mortal women was that what soldiers lacked in money, skills, and conversation, they made up for in bed.

Eros remarked that it was near Her birthday, and so if Ares was what She wanted….

Ares then approached the pair and poked fun at Eros’ delicate features and small arrows when compared to his own javelin. Eros’ then pulled one from His quiver and wished it an absurd weight for its metal. He handed it to Ares, saying, “This one is far heavier than it looks, try it and see.” Ares scoffed, and took the arrow, which he quickly learned surely must outweigh his own weapon in spite of being less than a third the length and a quarter its thickness. Realising He’d been tricked, his face became sour and he attempted to return it, saying, “It is too heavy, take it back.” Eros replied, “Keep it, it is a gift”, and Aphrodite smiled when Ares threw the empowered arrow to the ground in frustration, scratching His own foot with it as it landed.

The affair was conducted as any illicit affair, which for Aphrodite always remained exciting and worth every second They risked exposure — while Zeus’ affairs were no secret, as a married woman, Aphrodite was held to greater expectations of fidelity, and while She loathed the double-standard, She revelled in the excitement it created, always unsure of whether She feared or yearned for the affair to be found out.

Then Aphrodite learned of Her carrying of twins, at a time when clearly She would be unable to pass Them off as Her husband’s. As She fretted over this with the Kharietes, Hephaistos overheard, and devised a humiliation for the pair. Being not only a master craftsman, but also inventor, He was finished with His trap long before Aphrodite even began to show, and even managed the assistance of Apollon. When Aphrodite met with Ares in one of the magnificent rooms of Her palace built by Hephaistos, when the weight of their bodies combined (so as not to accidentally ensnare Kypris on her own) shiofted to the centre of the bed, a heavy net fell upon Them, and Apollon illuminated the room so that the outer wall was transparent, and all of Olympos could see Them in such a precarious state.

Aphrodite and Ares endured stares and pointed fingers and even laughter, and so when Ares and Aphrodite were finally freed, Ares flew into a rage, and took it out on Eros, for passing Him the arrow that made Him look a fool. In a panic to cease the beatings, Eros offered Ares and Kypris a compromise: He would convince Hera to grant Aphrodite a divorce, which would free the pair up to be together. Hera was receptive to this offer, but only if Aphrodite could find Hephaistos a suitable wife, so She arranged Hephaistos to be wed to Aglaia.

But Aphrodite is a fickle woman, and so after the birth of the twins, Phobos and Deimos, She bore Ares a daughter, Harmonia, conceived post-divorce, and soon grew weary of the soldier’s schedule, and took other lovers. Ares didn’t notice at first, then denied it when He did notice, until….

A young woman named Symrnah had offended Aphrodite for failure to honour the Goddess in Her due measure. in retaliation, She cursed the girl with a lust for her own father, driving the girl, in shame, to rape her father as he slept. He awoke and threatened Smyrnah, so she fled, and Eros took pity on the poor girl, and transformed her into a myrrh shrub, so that in death, she’d have no choice but to honour the goddess through the resin the bush produced.

One day out, when a priestess was harvesting myrrh resin, she cut into Smyrnah’s bush, and an infant began to push its head through the wound of the bark. Aphrodite came to see what was going on, and immediately claimed the child when She saw Him and then saw His future face, and saw He was destined to be quite lovely. To protect the child from Ares, She made an arrangement with Persephone, but as He grew up lovely, Persephone refused to give Him up to Aphrodite when She came to claim Him. Apollon offered to take in the youth as the women quarrelled, eventually taking the matter to Zeus, who suggested that a third of the year, the boy could live with Persephone, and for a third, He could live with Aphrodite, and the final portion of the year was for the youth Himself to decide.

Aphrodite chose to avoid the criticisms of Her affair with Ares by declining to marry Him after She and Hephaistos had their own dissolved; it just seemed easier, even though there was an assumption of exclusivity, what with the children and all. Still, Ares was jealous, so She and Persephone realised that Zeus only said “a third of the year”, He didn’t specify that it needed to be one-hundred-twenty days all in a row, so She made all attempts to arrange Adonis’ days with Her while Ares was away.

Still, word quickly came around to Ares that His beloved Aphrodite wasn’t keeping fidelity toward him; and to His own horror, He learned that this other man was a beautiful, effeminate youth who was said to be passed back-and-forth between Kypris and Kore like an accessory, and when not with them, would “lay as a woman” with Apollon, or so they said. Clearly, something would have to be done.

One day, when Aphrodite and Adonis were out in Her garden, Ares transformed Himself into a massive wild boar and charged the youth at full speed, goring vital organs and then tossing the boy into the air before turning around and taking off back to where He came from.

As Aphrodite wailed, tears poured from Her lovely face, and then Zephyros carried them as anemone poppy seeds on His breath, spreading and germinating the flower, creating a trail leading all to the torn body of the dying Adonis. When Ares came in His own form, Aphrodite recognised His eyes in the boar, and would not let Him touch Her. Persephone offered to take Him to the underworld, where His body remained lifeless while roses sprang up in the middle of the lettuce patch from the blood where the beauteous Adonis had died.

The following year, the Phoenix was due for renewal, and so began collecting myrrh resin for its egg. As it coaxed the beads of gum from the shrubberies, eventually it came upon Smyrnah’s bush, and dug its claws deep into the bark, which soon pulled out the long golden hairs of Aphrodite’s beloved youth, who soon after pulled himself from the wound in the wood, for it was the deep love bestowed upon Him in life that renewed Him, love deeper than that which Aphrodite gave to Ares, for Ares was known to be immortal, so He didn’t need it.

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.

Ares & Narkissos

Perhaps some will find it odd, but in my reading (some tales for the first time, some for the first time in a very long time) for yesterday’s post, I noted some similarity to the nature of Ares’ mythos and my beloved Narkissos. Now, I make no secret of the fact of my reverence of Narkissos as a holy daimon, and feel His mythos alone are sufficient evidence that, even though without any evidence of ancient cult, this was likely His status in His native Thespiai.

…but I digress.

The most famous of Ares’ mythos, His adulterous affair with Aphrodite, is quite naturally suited to a cautionary tale against letting one’s ego run wild, while Narkissos’ is so deeply associated with the idea that one not even be familiar with the myth to have an idea what it must be about, so long as one has even a passing familiarity with what the English word “narcissism” means in casual every-day use.

The differences to each myth are important to consider, as they are clearly two stories with different intended audiences and so different nuances of morality lesson, but both carry an underlying theme of the dangers of letting one’s ego take control of one’s affections, and thus better judgement.

In “The Story of Narkissos”, we have a young man so consumed with the idea that no-one is good enough for His own affections that He’s cursed to stare Himself into a flower by deities closely bound to Eros; in some versions, He is portrayed as literally rejecting the Gods of Love, creating a hubristic bend to His own self-absorption.

Then we have the affair of Ares and Aphrodite.

I’m tempted to regard the story as the odd Roman influence in Hellenic mythology (as the pattern is usually in reverse), as both Venus and Mars are regarded as the patron and matron deities of Rome and a mythological narrative is an easy way to explain this. Unfortunately for my hypothesis, all I really have are my own suspicions, as the most basic elements of the myth pre-date any serious Roman influence by about five-hundred years, as best as we can tell, anyway. Still, interesting idea, and clearly a potential reason for the myth’s lasting popularity, if not at all a reason for the myth’s origin.

Regardless of the underlying origin of the myth, there are elements that clearly serve as a cautionary tale against unbridled ego and lust, and potentially against “class-climbing”.

Aphrodite is a married woman, and while infidelity in men has been accepted for millennia, not so much for women (in spite of all evidence to the contrary that women are just as much predisposed to it, if not actually possessing of a higher biological interest in multiple partners than men have), so their affair is conducted in secret — right from the beginning, this is something that is clearly not designed to be a story giving people the go-ahead to sleep around as a married woman or with married women, since even the theoi are given to a belief that it’s wrong1. At some point, Hephaistos decides to trap the problematic lovers, humiliating them for going behind His back and making Him look a fool.

Now, some of this is negated by the possible divorce of Aphrodite and Hephaistos; this is alluded to in Homer (in later naming Hephaistos’ wife as the Kharis Aglaia, Who bore Him the younger generation of Kharietes), and other poets describe it more explicitly — but then later Ares is the victim of Ahrodite’s infidelity with Adonis, giving Ares an irony of fate. Unfortunately for Adonis, His fate is to be far more tragic than Ares’, as Ares’ boar form gored the youth — but perhaps not-so-unfortunate, as Aphrodite’s love for Adonis renewed Him, finally making it clear to Ares His folly of ego, assuming that He could somehow be “enough” for Aphrodite’s affections.

In both stories, there is a variation of self-absorption that seals each fate: Narkissos staring Himself into a flower, Ares’ repeated humiliation — and each time, at the hands of men who can certainly be characterised as “weaker” (Hephaistos, the cripple, and Adonis, the effete). While certainly there are obvious differences in each story, they each share a common theme of “keep your ego in check”.


1: Of course, that’s not to say that women in Hellenic mythos are never allowed to own their own sexuality; from Athene resisting the advances of Hephaistos and raising His and Gaia’s jizz-spawn as Her own, to Demeter’s single motherhood, to Artemis cursing peeping toms watching her bathe, to Selene enchanting Her favourite twink to eternal youth and sleep so that She could lay with him. The difference for Aphrodite is that She’s married, and so fidelity is expected, as is being open to Her husband’s desires; if, like Demeter and Selene, She was unmarried, She could presumably bed and molest ALL THE MENS to Her liking. Which, yeah, compared to how Zeus’ mythos has him sticking his dick in everything, and as everything, is a total double standard and totally unfair, and Hera’s attempts at retribution hardly seem to get through to Him, but that’s not really the point of the mythos, now is it? No it’s not.

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 13 ~ Pantheon – Adonis & the Flower Boys

I love Adonis.
AphroditeAdonisLouvreMNB210 Though there’s Peanut Gallery commentary decrying any worship of Him and Kybele in a Hellenic context as “un-Hellenic”, it’s pretty obvious that Their cults had been thoroughly Hellenised by the time of Hesiod (if you haven’t seen people making such ridiculous claims, consider yourself lucky; in fact, I consider myself a lesser person for even mentioning it). I find myself especially fascinated with Ptolemy Hephaestion frequently linking His love as shared with Aphrodite and Apollon, which may seem unusual to those who are only familiar with the versions of Aponis’ mythos that link Him with Aphrodite and Persephone. AdonisLouvre

“Adonis, having become androgynous, behaved as a man for Aphrodite and as a woman for Apollon.” – Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk5 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)

There’s a fragment from Hesiod that describes Adonis as the son of Phoenix (son of Amyntor), and most primary sources name His mother as Smyrrhna, who had a metamorphosis into the tree from which myrrh resin is harvested.

In myth and in cult, there are many easy comparisons to Dionysos — from a position in life-death-rebirth cults, his apparent links to sexuality, vegetation, and Khthonic deities (especially Persephone), Adonis-Dream-Print-C10032791 academic and ancient syncretic likening to Osiris, and the public face of His cult was decidedly female (though this is where things begin to differ — male Dionysians existed in ancient times as much, if not more, than in modern — male Adonians, at least in the ancient Hellenic world [I haven’t a clue about the Phonecian or Syrian world where it’s clear His cult originated], seem apparently non-existent and, even in modern times, seem few, at best). adonis_northcote But at least in the Hellenic world, it’s very clear that they are not the same — in some mythology, Aphrodite bore Adonis a daughter, Beroe, who is one beloved of Dionysos.

His cult likely came into the Hellenic mainlaind through Kypris, the birthplace and local name for Aphrodite, and by about the 6th Century BCE, was already well-known in Hellas. This is not insignificant: This not only cements a relationship with Aphrodite’s cult, it also really shows the aforementioned Peanut Gallery where to stick it — MWAHAHAHAHA!!! 😀

adonis Seriously, folks, at this point in time, I think it’s safe to admit that the Adonis cult was thoroughly Hellenised. The academia really tries to “un-Hellenise” Adonis, and indeed, many of these arguments seem to make sense, until you get into several glaringly apparent facts:

1) Adonis is a central part of Aphrodite’s Hellenic mythology — and I word it this way because a significant amount of Her mythology and cult is clearly “imported”, comparative mythologises easily link Aphrodite to nearly every Near Eastern Goddess from the Babylonian Ishtar to the Zoroastrian Anahita. adonis001 If one is going to conclude that Hellenic polytheists should worship only Hellenic deities, then there is an awful lot of archaeology that could easily reason that Aphrodite’s cult is not “indigenous” to Hellas any more than that of Adonis’.

2) It’s absolutely likely that Adonis’ cult was “imported” at the same time as Aphrodite — and even the much-touted Walter Burkert (apparently Greek Religion is a veritable gospel to some people), sure seems to agree with this idea: AdonisNaples

The cult of the dying god Adonis is already found to be fully developed in Sappho’s circle of young girls around 600 [BCE]; indeed, one might ask whether Adonis had not from the very beginning come to Greece along with Aphrodite. For the Greeks it was well-known that he was an immigrant from the Semetic world, and his origins were traced to Byblos and Cyprus. His name is clearly the Semetic title adon, Lord. For all that, there is in Semetic tradition no known cult connected with this title which corresponds exactly to the Greek cult, to say nothing of a counterpart to the Greek Adonis myth. (pp176-177)

Indeed, investigating Near Eastern mythology, the closest deity with a cult matching the Adonis cult is we see named is “Tammuz”, not Adonis. Perhaps “Adonis”, in this instance, is merely a loan-word made name? Death of Adonis

3) The name Adonis, while clearly being the sticking point for identifying His cult as “foreign”, as a language arts major I can clearly see as a mere convention on the same level as “Kytheria” or “Kypris” as a name for Aphrodite — and one clearly accepted as “Greek enough” for many scholars for centuries — indeed, Thomas Taylor takes “Kypris = Aphrodite (= Venus)” for granted in translating the Orphic hymns — and indeed, Cyprus was Hittite land until fairly late Bronze Age; which would be roughly the period estimated for the import of Aphrodite and Adonis cults. return_of_adonis-large Indeed, in most mythological traditions, Cyprus is also the birthplace of Adonis, not merely His cult — so it obviously flabbergasts that somehow this can make Aphrodite “Hellenic enough”, but not Adonis.

One can clearly only begin to imagine the whys and such for the reluctance to accept Adonis cult as “Hellenic enough”, when all evidence clearly shows that it is so. adonis5633 One idea may simply revert to etymology — though clearly acceptable early on in the Hellenisation of Adonis cult practise, later it became a sticking point due to what would now be called racism or nationalism — kinda the same logic “birthers” use to accuse President Barak Obama of being born well-outside U$ soils, in spite of all clear evidence to the contrary. Another idea being that since His cult, in ancient times, was dominated by women to the point of apparently becoming female-only kept the cult well outside the “mainstream” of the civic religion, and so, in a sense, “foreign” to ancient writers, who tended to be men — it could therefore arguably be sexism that kept the Adonis cult regarded as “foreign”; if one considers that many often wrote of the Adonis cult and its symbols with a hint of derision (it’s arguable that the old idea of “green leafy salad = women’s food” is an idea started in ancient Hellas — not only is lettuce sacred to Adonis, but one writer once joked [or perhaps seriously believed] that lettuce causes male sterility), this hypothesis makes a lot of sense on paper. Untitled-1
But perhaps I digress….

I was initially attracted to Adonis as an extension of the “flower boys” — His floral associations include roses (in some versions of the mythos), windflower / anemone poppies, and the “adonis” genus of flowering plant. I make no secret of my veneration of Narkissos as a Daimone and Hyakinthos as hemitheos. Even Krokos, Paeon, and narcisses,_hyacinths_and_nasturtiums-large The “flower boy” myths intrigue me on many levels: For starters, think about what a flower is — not what it represents in this culture, but what it is. It’s a part of certain plants, but which part? The genitals. In a certain light, it can seem kind of perverse how much —severed plant genitals— er… cut flowers play a part in (especially heterosexual) romance, courtship, and marriage. The boy gives the girl a cluster of severed, essentially hermaphroditic genitals to show he likes her. A few centuries ago, especially the middle classes, the boy’s visit would then only really last as long as it took for girl to pluck the protective petals from around the reproductive centre. Near the end of the wedding ritual, where people especially like to be surrounded by these hermaphroditic plant parts, the bride throws another bushel of genitals on her friends, with the hope that the cycle will start anew. JohnWilliamWaterhouse-Narcissus_JW And if that’s not enough for you to handle? In many flowers, it’s the especially phallic-looking bit in the centre that’s the “female” part of this hermaphrodite.

It’s clear that Western culture is seriously obsessed with sex and sex organs — even when it tries to pretend it’s not, it’s filling children, especially girls, with an onslaught of symbols of fertility and virility and Martha Stewart is joyfully arranging severed genitals in various vases, often with the especially phallic lady-bits, right there on daytime telly (that woman seriously seems to love her lilies and callas — which aren’t lilies, they’re arums, and their “male bits” are typically attached to the “female bit” — now THINK ABOUT THAT). narcissus001

I find it hard to get close to Aphrodite. Not for lack of trying, mind, but perhaps she senses something about me (In Real Life™, I tend to be generally more comfortable getting emotionally close with men, while women I tend to befriend more casually — and the few exceptions to this kind of prove the rule, in their own unique ways), and either decides to maintain that distance, or simply appoints any and all contact to be through one of “Her Boys”: Either Eros, Whom I’ve already become especially close to, or Adonis, another Flower Boy for my bouquet.

Narkissos, I consider especially precious. My own views of His mythology apparently differ from the mainstream, and the versions of His mythos I hold most dear Narcissus003 (and indeed, there are dozens of ancient re-tellings and re-imaginings — the Battlestar Galactica franchise has had fewer re-interpretations by a wide margin) seem rather obscure, even if they’re versions that still seem to maintain the dominant trappings of the popular versions. To me, He is a holy daimon: A spirit of self-love, and a protector of those unloved. His namesake flower is sacred to Him, as are mirrors and reflecting pools; the species narcissus poeticus is especially sacred, as this is the exact flower He gave form to. He comes to you in a form reminiscent of you see yourself, perhaps a daimon of the Ego Ideal. He is the son of a nymphe and river god of Thespiae. Narcissus_Mazarini_Louvre_Ma435 His spurned lover, Ameinias, became anise; you can help to heal the tears Narkissos shed for both His own cruelty and for Ameinias with an offering of anise. Also, a bit of anise in a coffee for a reading may shed light on who loves you. Popularly, at least historically, He seems to have an especial link with gay man, and “narcissism” was initially used as a term for the “sexual perversion” of male-male love.

Hyakinthos’ flower, contrary to modern assumptions, is the delphinium larkspur. He is the son of the Moisa Goddess Kleio and Magnes’ son Pieros (Magnes being the first, now legendary, king of Magnesia, and a son of Zeus), and in some mythological traditions, He is either brother or cousin to Daphne — and perhaps the common-enough urge to link their myths is part of the collective consciousness trying to remind people of this (presumably?) once-ancient connection. hyacinth-statue-large By Spartan tradition, Hyakinthos is identified with the Thessalian Hymenaios, the God of marriage and the wedding bed, carrying associations with virginity, True Love, and legitimate partnership — again, I have to voice flabergastion that at the fact that so many modern Hellenic polytheists insist that only heterosexual partnerships have a right to spiritual or ritual legitimacy. Did Apollon not love Hyakinthos in the mythos? Is a god’s love not legitimate? Is the love felt by a mortal somehow unture? (If so, then logically, no marriage with a base of love, which is indeed what the overwhelming majority of Western marriages are, can possibly be ritually legitimate within Hellenismos — and I seriously doubt that very many people would want to get behind a fringe religion with self-proclaimed “authorities” who endorse a return to strictly-arranged het marriages based in social-climbing and dowries.) Delphinium-Larkspur-1 Or would people rather wax philosophical about “symbolism” and “metaphor” in myth rather than accept that the best symbol of a thing is the thing itself — and the mythos she the thing itself as a deep love and bond that was met with a tragic end. Though mortals may be imperfect, even flawed things can be true, legitimate — death is the greatest, most glaring flaw that mortals have, when compared to the Theoi, but our deaths are overwhelmingly true, a truth that is glaringly obvious.

Apollo And Hyacynth Benvenuto Cellini And again, we come back to blues — immortal blues for Love Himself. From “…something borrowed, and something blue,” to “L’amour est Bleu” (perhaps is is not insignificant that this song rose to fame via the Hellenic singer Vicky Leandros? LOL). The first I saw Hyakinthos, I knew the Spartans were onto something with their associations with Hymenaios, for the first time I saw Hyacinth (in a dream, mind), He was at a small pool or spring, sitting on a rock at the centre of a thick round of His flower, peacock feathers tied into His hair (giving allusions to Hera, a Goddess whose domains include marriage), and Apollon identifying this breath-taking youth as His beloved Hyakinthos, who He “fought the West Wind for, and won”. Their love, as I see it, is a wedded one that is renewed annually with Hyakinthos’ death and rebirth. George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008 He is therefore arguably, too, an Erote of Love Renewed, of Tragic Love, and a god of rebirth from tragedy.

Because of my interest in Boeotian traditions, especially of Thespiae and the surrounding area, I often revert back to Hesiod. Hesiod names a beautiful Thessalian boy beloved of Apollon, Hymenaios — or at least this is the Evlyn-White translation of the relevant fragment. The pseudo-Apollodoros notes a Thessalian Hyakinthos was seduced by Apollon away from Philammon, and that this Thessalian youth was accidentally slain by discus. Clearly this mythology is an example of one-in-the-same, simply with different names. At this point, I’m convinced, and urge: Whether you call Him Hyakinthos or Hymenaios, call on Him to bless the bond of love.

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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.

Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane and polytheism as a metaphor for homosexuality

This is possibly one of my favourite films, and not just as an extension of my weakness for ridiculous films about Christian mythos (if you want ridiculous in your Christianity, The Apple is the best yet). While carrying the airs of serious art film, Sebastiane has a ridiculousness to it, don’t get me wrong (from the liberties taken with the saint’s mythos to Jarman’s response to questions about the film’s profuse nudity [“we couldn’t afford costumes after the first scene”] to the fact that it inspired an episode of Father Ted, Sebastiane‘s ridiculousness is hard to ignore), my love for this film has more to do with the fact that the more I watch it, the more I see something that I didn’t before realise was there.

This film is a sometimes shallow, but sometimes incredibly deep metaphor for a closet case (and in case you can’t see it, Jarman has explained this in many interviews and in his memoirs, which span seven volumes). Sometimes the metaphor is so deep, you have to view the film repeatedly to get it.

Ceci n'est pas une pénis.

From pretty early on in the film, its established plot focus is the relationship between Sebastiane, the Christian and one of only two characters who isn’t shown to even surrender to sex with men for lack of women (the other being Maximus, who, on repeated viewing, represents society and the Middle Class that Jarman grew up in, in specific — Maximus is not only disdainful of homosexual preferences [to excuse his own presumed, but unseen, occasional dalliances with boys for “a quick one”], and xenophobic in comparing the openly gay characters to “Greeks”, but he is devoid of genuine spirituality, giving it little more than lip-service and making the rare allegory; his most notable references to the Gods of Rome is to mock the Captain in front of the other men), and the Roman army Captain, Severus, ostensibly a polytheist, and the character with an obsessive and unrequited love and lust for the title character. Severus uses his position of power to force Sebastiane into a debatably S&M relationship (which, interestingly, appears initiated by Sebastiane) in which Sebastiane is the tortured one, and which is periodically interrupted with outbursts of pleading from Severus, because this isn’t what he wants — he wants to love, be loved, make love.

This is all pretty obvious to people who can watch the film and think a millimetre or two deeper than the most literal interpretations of what’s on the screen — which would be a bunch of naked guys running around, mostly shouting at each-other in Vulgar Latin (as opposed to the Classical Latin learned by most people today), and occasionally tying each-other up and throwing hot lamp oil on each-other, and a soundtrack by Brian Eno, because why the hell not? [Aside: All who argue the genius of Eno will be beaten with cement-filled milk jugs, with the exception of Eno himself, as that would be counter-productive to my Eno-veneration.]

One of the fuzzier metaphors is Jarman’s use of polytheistic imagery juxtaposed with apparent homosexual longing and used to contrast Sebastiane’s refusal to give in to this longing and his Christianity. Scene Two opens with Sebastiane showering himself from a well with a large water jug one morning as Severus watches on, and Sebastiane’s voice narrates imagery of an unnamed “young god” conquering Nox before standing in his chariot, “his body glittering” being “like the gold in lapis” as the camera focuses on large areas with Sebastiane’s body covered in sun-sparkling droplets of water. To the untrained eye and ear, as Sebastiane’s voice was heard briefly in the previous scene, this may seem a morning prayer with the unnamed “young god” perhaps being Jesus standing high above all other gods (and I know this, because I’ve had to explain to people, yes, even other GBLTs, that this scene wasn’t what they thought it was); but if you do think just a tiny ways further, it’s apparent that this is either Severus imagining Sebastiane’s voice and such imagery as a manifestation of his own longing, or Sebastiane knowingly indulging Severus this pleasure and thus is reciting it himself, and thus giving himself a measure of disconnect from the scene so that even though he was knowingly teasing the other man, the pantheonic imagery allows him to assure himself that his heart wasn’t in it, absolving himself of Christian Sin.

In one of the soon following scenes, Sebastiane leaves the six other men to be by himself in a secluded pool, and in voice-over from Sebastiane is an odd homoerotic prayer all too careful to eschew not only the mention of a single,transcendental deity, but any of the more obvious Christian imagery (to a largely Christian United Kingdom), in favour of something probably more reflective of Jarman’s degrees in art than anything else:

Hail god of the golden sun
The heavens and Earth are united in gold
Comb your hair in the golden rays of light
In your hands the roses of ecstasy burn
The wheel turns full circle [5]
Cooled by breezes from the four quarters
The swallow has risen in the East
The doors are open
Your body, your naked body
Initiated into the mysteries, step forth [10]
That beauty that made all colours different
Comes forth into the world
Hail god of the golden fire
Your beauty holds my heart captive

I’ve watched this film so many times, this prayer no longer has a concrete meaning. I have reason to believe Jarman wanted it this way. The first line is obviously in lock-step with Jesus allusions, at least according to the fine kooks over at JesusNeverExisted.com(1), but the rest is so steeped in homoeroticism, ostensibly pagan imagery (lines 4, 5, 10?, 13), and the only reliable imagery I can muster up from around that period (~300CE) and that region for swallows would be as a symbol of the household Gods and Aphrodite/Venus. I’d accuse Jarman of intentionally making this pagan if it wasn’t for the fact that I know he was a Christian of extremely liberal philosophies (of course, it’s very clear that Sebastiane is not portrayed heroically in this film, but instead as a creature of pity).

The following scene reveals Sebastiane’s “initiation” of the “S&M relationship” between himself and Severus, by refusing to fight. Following the beatings, Justin, Sebastiane’s sole friend and sympathiser in the film, offers comfort and a vague warning that this could go too far.

In a following scene, Severus watches Anthony and Adrian make love in the sun (and despite 1976’s X-rating, this is tamer than the sex in some episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He turns to Sebastiane and asks “Are you still a Christian?”
“Yes.”
“Then remove my armour.”

No, seriously, somebody tell me what that branch is from.Severous touches Sebastiane’s shoulder seductively, which Sebastiane refuses. As punishment for this, Severus cock-blocks Anthony and Adrian to come over, after which we see the three of them tying Sebastiane up and out in the scorching sun. Following this, we see the other men playing with a time-travelling Frisbee™ (I can’t really excuse that one, either), and this scene is cut short when we see what is presumed a heat-induced hallucination of Sebastiane’s: Standing over and looking down on him is a youth wearing a leopard skin with head, and carrying a large branch I have yet to identify. Identified as “Leopard Boy” in the credits, he says nothing and apparently fades in and out from Sebastiane’s consciousness. (Feel free to click that image to get the full size; I really want to know what that branch is from — I also apologise for the quality of the image, the film wasn’t shot with the best film, and it’s an inexpensive Kino release, this is honestly the best screen-cap I could catch.)

We then see the other men on a “pig hunt” (because no UK-produced film about anything seems truly complete without allusions to Lord of the Flies, wouldn’t you agree?) During this hunt, Justin throws down his spear and goes to Sebastiane, who is still out in the sun hallucinating Leopard Boy; this is also the scene where it’s made obvious that this is Sebastiane’s hallucination. Justin asks “Why are you doing this?”
“His eyes are so beautiful. He has sky blue eyes.” As does the actor playing Severus.
“What are you talking about?”
“His hair is like the sun’s rays. His body is golden like molten gold. This hand of his will smooth away these wounds….”
Justin looks to the blond Severus, who just then stabs the pig.
“Justin… He is as beautiful as the sun, this sun which caresses me… is his burning desire. He is Phoebus Apollo[n].” Delirious cut to Leopard Boy stepping away. “The sun… is his… burning kiss.”
“This is madness,” notes Justin. “Why don’t you run?”
“His beauty is enhanced by his anger. It is his anger which is divine. His punishments are like Christ’s promise. He takes me in his arm and caresses my bleeding body. I want to be with him. I love him. Justin, you don’t understand. Take it away.” Cut to a pool of blood in the sand surrounded by spears.

Later, there is a scene of S&M-like torture for Sebastiane from Severus, which is conclusively ended when Justin takes some food to Sebastiane and pleads, “You must eat. Why are you doing this?”
“I love him. He is beautiful. More beautiful than Adonis.”

First off, after taking notes from this film last night (including lengthy transcriptions of dialogue by hand because all I have is a desktop computer), and especially after writing this all down for my blog, I’m really confused as to why I’ve ever had to explain this to people — it’s very painfully obvious what’s happening in the desert scene — but for those of you who want to hear it from me, yes, it’s Severus who is being referred to as “Phoebus Apollo” in this delirious speech of Sebastiane’s unattainable desire. The Leopard Boy is most assuredly drawing on Dionysian imagery, implying this may be either a manifestation of Sebastiane’s true nature and desires that he’s cut himself off from, or potentially even divine communique, beckoning Sebastiane to release himself from this pain by allowing himself to love, be loved, make love. The ostensibly polytheist Adrian and Anthony contrast Sebastiane and Severus by being both open and unashamed about their love; the only nay-saying they face is from Maximus, who the other characters seem to barely tolerate. This juxtaposition especially stands out because Jarman’s own Christian beliefs make the positive portrayal of homosexual love between Anthony and Adrian, and the arguable “morality lesson” against closeted and denied homosexual desires of Sebastiane a truly unique specimen.

The comparison to Adonis is also apparently intentionally vague: Is Sebastiane referring to “this” as allowing himself to be tortured as a means to keep himself from giving in to desire, thus he is saying it is Christ who is “more beautiful than Adonis”, or is “this” allowing himself to be tortured just to have Severus touch him, and thus it is Severus who is more beautiful? Perhaps it’s both; actually, considering Jarman’s body of work, it’s almost definitely both. The imageries of both Dionysos and Adonis, it probably could go without noting, are not casual references — these are imageries of life-death-rebirth deities known in Hellenic mythology for bisexuality and (at least occasional forays into) effeminacy. Furthermore, I really can’t help but notice that imagery of Adonis and that of St. Sebastian are often eerily similar.

Hey, look. Goats.

Sebastiane’s execution is preceded first with another S&M scene, one that ends with Sebastiane denouncing Severus as an impotent drunk and defiantly asking “[Do] you think your drunken lust compares to the love of God?” This would be basically a portrayal of “suicide by cop” — lacking the ability to make these desires go away, Sebastiane chooses martyrdom as an easy out. The next scene starts with a virtual ocean of goats on the move, and sitting among them is Sebastiane, in a crown of grapes. This, I had to screen-cap on general principle, it was just so blatantly referencing Dionysos, and really, it has to be seen to be believed. The only conceivable explanations I can imagine for this is perhaps Severus laying one final claim — or possibly Jarman attempting to trick the audience into thinking they’ve seen a Christ-figure in a crown of thorns surrounded by “devils” of goats. Thinking about it for a few seconds, and knowing Jarman’s films the way I do, it’s probably both. But what the hell do I know?

It is instead Justin who is crowned in vines, alluding to Justin as the true Christ-figure in this film, and laying down an implication of Jarman’s own brand of Christianity as all-loving when one considers some earlier scenes in the film (none of which had much, if anything, to do with this piece’s perceptions, so I’ve left them alone for a later time) Severus announces Sebastiane’s execution and immediately falls to tears. At Sebastiane’s execution, Maximus also forces a bow and arrow in the thorn-and-robe-clad Justin’s hands, and makes him pull back and release a final shot — one positioned to seemingly aim for another actor’s buttocks — I believe this imagery was also as intentional as it was to put these characters in that specific scene.

When you re-think Justin as the true Christ-like figure in the film, it’s apparent that the film has Christian sympathies despite Sebastiane himself being very definitely a non-hero and debatably both protagonist and antagonist, as was Severus, but looking at and examining the well-placed polytheist imagery (because the Apollonian and Adonian allusions of St. Sebastian alone simply aren’t enough) reveal that Jarman and his film had other sympathies.

As I’d said at the beginning of this post, the film takes great liberties with traditional St. Sebastian mythos — which tends to portray him as a 3rd Century CE Rasputin (id est, he was hard to kill) — to instead create an Anterotic fable about “the gay closet” and its effective cowardice.

It’s also not lost on me that St. Sebastian is probably one of the Christian saints steeped deepest in polytheistic imagery: His patronage includes not only arrows, but also plague, and even Wikipedia’s writers and editors have noticed the correspondences with Apollon. Being also one of the religion’s earliest saints, it can effectively be said that he’s probably one of the easiest examples of early Christianity syncretising martyrs with the old Gods. At least in my own mind, this makes the Dionysian imagery somehow all the more appropriate, and brings to mind an epithet shared by Dionysos and Eros, “Eleutherios – The Liberator”. Which in turn brings to mind Severus’ relationship with Sebastiane as both “Abros – Tender” and “Algesidoros – Pain Inducer”, both engaged alternated in a futile attempt to release Sebastiane from his self-induced prison of repression.


(1) Like all the best kookery, the Jesus Never Existed people have a bit of truth on there, and a fair amount of internally consistent evidence for their purposes; I also generally agree with them that, at best, the dominating and most consistent “evidence” for the existence of “Jesus Christ” is no more “consistent” than it would need to be to support the hypothesis of “Christ” as a composite of a few rebellious, vaguely Platonic Jews from around 20-35CE of the Roman Empire. I’m outing their “truths” instead as kookery cos the crux of a fair amount of their arguments seem to make their “evidence” into something more than what it is, or outright something that it is not. Don’t take my word for it, though; dig around on their site and judge for yourself.

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.

Messenger Bag

I was actually inspired to make this post after reading this post from the LJ community pimp_my_altarPimp My Altar. My messenger bag began life as, well, and ordinary messenger/Israeli paratrooper bag that I purchased at Harry’s Army Surplus before their Ann Arbor location went out-of-business (due largely to gentrification and the sudden raise in rent for businesses on that block):

Mine was purchased for under $10 on a 50% off clearance, and I also got a fishtail parka for just under $20, on a 75% off clearance, and an extra-tall “walking stick”-sized umbrella for about $10 even (the latter is no longer a usable umbrella, due in part to Chicago winds, and in part to living with three cats).

This is how mine looks today:

It wasn’t a huge task to transform the paratrooper symbol into a Caduceus, which has been historically used as a printer’s mark. Regardless, as a symbol of Hermes, it seems an entirely appropriate thing to paint onto a bag that I primarily use for carrying notebooks, my agenda, important papers, my chequebook (which has the simpler Caduceus [sans wings] painted on the front), and a few other things that I’m in the habit of carrying with me, including my lyrics book, sheet music, drawing pencils and sketch diary, mp3 player or Walkman, personal phone book, cigarette tin and lighter, and gum. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Derek Jarman’s film Caravaggio: “It was through an act of theft that Mercury created the Arts.” I recall that quote not because of theft (though I am frequently reminded of how the push for gentrification has essentially robbed this poor town of its culture before it could truly come into its own, and how the closing of Harry’s and several other down-town stores really solidified Ann Arbor’s gentrification in my mind), but because of Hermes’ long-held associations with the Arts and how I carry in this bag my simplest means of creativity.

All the pin-back buttons on the bag (with the exception of “The Amino Acids – Warning: Tangy Reverb” one) are also one’s that I’ve created. I had a few more on there before I took these two photos just now, but they either fell off or were removed by me at some time or another. [Well, except for a Dionysos button that I’m pretty sure some kid on the Amtrak stole while I was in the on-train restroom; it’s one of those things that I just know, even though I couldn’t prove it. Of course, I didn’t even notice it was gone until I had already reached Chicago. There was just something about the way that kid kept looking at the button when he and his mother boarded the bus, kept looking at me after I came back from the restroom, and the fact that his mother was dead-asleep before and after I went to the restroom.]

Here’s a close-up (albeit, a dark one) of the buttons. I took it without flash to eliminate glare that would have made them unviewable:


left-to-right are: Top – Satyr & Nymphe (from a Roman mosaic), Narkissos (19thC CE illustration)
Bottom – Apollon & Muse, Hyakinthos & Zephyros, Apollon & laurel branch
(gone missing or out-of-commission: Dionysos, Hermes, Adonis, Eros, Caravaggio’s Narcissus, Hermaphroditos, Neokoroi flame, Hellenion flame)

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.

Just in case you were curious…

I have *many* notebooks, paper notebooks, mostly those speckled, thread-bound “Composition Book” notebooks, filled with Eros, Erote, Apollon, Adonis, and related-religious stuff. About one-quarter to one-third of the contents of these notebooks is coherent poetry, some of it is even something that I would consider good (and I’ve turned being my own worst critic into an art). Maybe one-fifth of the content is ritual outlines and/or draft versions of rit that I swear I will polish up, one of these days. Between fifteen and twenty percent are re-written mythos, including draft versions.

The remaining 30-45% of this content?

Very incoherent!

It’s a mish-mash of half-thoughts, waking dreams, hastily jotted-down “gnosis”-like bits, and so forth. I have a separate dream journal that I have worked out a “system” for, and can totally decipher, if asked to by nosy friends who sometimes go through the books I attempt to hastily conceal under my bed. I’m not talking about my dream journal. Sometimes, I’ll scry or burn bay or get into a quasi-meditative state and wind up jotting down whatever weird shit comes into my head; that’s what I’m talking about. Sometimes, I’ll just be going about my day, maybe I’m in the shower, maybe I’m making my own dinner, and suddenly get a thought that I just somehow “know” has to be logged in this indecipherable system of notebooks (and these notebooks haven’t much in the way of a coherent system), and this thought must get written down, even if I end up dragging soapy water all through the apartment, even if I burn my food, because this is something that has to get logged, no matter how “trivial” (less than two lines), no matter how “crazy” (seemingly unconnected words, speedily drawn flow-charts that suddenly make not one bit of sense two minutes after I jot it down, three-to-ten word phrases repeated for several lines and then stopped with a completely different line written once…); that’s what I’m talking about.

I know that there are people who, upon seeing this stuff, may very well question my sanity. I am well-aware of this. In fact, it is there mere existence of these notebooks, specifically that whole third of them (possibly more) that ends up reading like the literary equivalent of a Genesis P-Orridge sound project or a Yoko Ono experimental film anthology, that I take great offense on certain Hellenic e-mail lists to people misjudge my practise by my tendencies to resort to hard-nosed and often pedantic degrees of logic in threads and claim that “[I’m] not a mystic”. I need these long tirades of logic, reason, and pedantic academia to balance all of the weird shit that bounces around my head throughout my days; I thouroughly believe in this logic, or else it wouldn’t be the logic I use in these threads, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that there are things going on in the “spiritual part of my brain” (for lack of a better descriptive) that I don’t completely understand the mechanics behind. I haven’t had any injuries or prolonged periods of lacking oxygen, nor do I have a sort of seizure disorder that can easily explain these occurrences as a mild degree of brain damage. I have been tested for and lack the typical neurochemical imbalances commonly associated with schizophrenic or schizotypal disorders. In fact, the scans I went through as a teenager seem to indicate that my brain, biologically speaking, is relatively normal. My current knowledge thus suggests to me that these experiences are, to at least some degree, mystical in nature, and I just don’t know how to interpret what any of this means.

So, in the meantime, I write casual essays and articles and re-written mythos and I share that with the Hellenic community on-line. I know what to make of these pieces. I understand where it comes from, and I know what it all means two minutes after I write it down.

If you have any interest in trying to help me make sense of what this remaining 1/3 of my notebooks mean, you can now feel free to contact me at the e-mail address I’ve provided here. Please be prepared to explain to me why you are qualified to decipher this brain-spew; also, be warned, that I’m very poor (on disability allowance for physical reasons) and it is not worth your time to try and swindle me.

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.

How Eros has Affected My General Worship: Chloris

Somehow, I think that the especial cult reverence that I afford Eros and the Erotes has helped me to see how the Theoi are connected and interact. One Goddess, Whom I now feel is often overlooked, Chloris (Flora, in Latin), the Goddess of Flowers, is one who I only really noticed after gravitating toward Eros cultus.

After noticing Chloris, it seemed quite obvious why She should be afforded at least some reverence in Erote worship: Many (and I do mean many) love stories in the mythos of ancient Hellas involve a metamorphisis into flowers. Many flowers are sacred to Aphrodite and the Erotes. Even in modern rituals that many people regard as being totally secular, flowers are often given in romance — and, interestingly, flowers are left for our dead. Again, we come to a relationship between Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death, a relationship which is far more pronounced in Gaelig mythology, and as we can see in the sources on Theoi.com, Ovid -in heavily implying Greek origin of this mythology (indeed, he implies it all over the place)- associates Chloris with the Isles of the Blessed in Elysium, and according to Wikipaedia, She is associated with not only Flowers, but also Spring and New Growth — an incredibly apt Goddess to associate with mythos often interpreted as life-death-rebirth mythos, such as Adonis or Hyakinthos, or even Narkissos.

And let us not forget that, botanically, flowers are basically the sex organs of the plant.

In connecting Chloris to Eros, the nymphai of the flowers are next, then the nymphai as a whole, Apollon, Dionysos, Hermes, Artemis… basically any other Theos with strong connections to the nymphai. In connecting Him to Chloris, we bring Him together with the Seasons, the Winds, the Weather Theoi, Zeus. All roads lead to Eros: Love and Creation.

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.

Óengus mac ind Og

There is a certain contingent of people in the Hellenic community that simply misunderstands syncretism, at best, or is attempting to redefine syncretism for their own purposes, at worst (and then, of course, they insist that everybody else is “redefining it for their own purposes”, despite the fact that it’s “everybody else’s” definition that can be backed up by dictionaries and Wikipaedia, and theirs is the definition that cannot). Religious syncretism is defined by Wikipaedia as [link]:

Religious syncretism exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. This can occur for many reasons, and the latter scenario happens quite commonly in areas where multiple religious traditions exist in proximity and function actively in the culture, or when a culture is conquered, and the conquerors bring their religious beliefs with them, but do not succeed in entirely eradicating the old beliefs or, especially, practices.

The Oxford English Dictionary (the standard dictionary of the English language for most of the world) defines syncretism as link]:

• noun the amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

So, basically, it can be easily concluded that polytheistic syncretism is not merely the adoption of epithets, but the systematic blending of traditions by an individual or a group.

Now, I bring this up because one practise often applied in syncretic traditions, and inevitably brought up in discussions on ancient polytheism and religious syncretism is “Interpretatio graeca“, a Latin term for tendancies among certain Ancient Greek writers (Wikipaedia cites Herodotus as a primary example) to relate foreign Gods to the Theoi of the Hellenic pantheon. The Romans later adopted this practise, along with truly syncretic elements in the adoption of the Greek Apollon, Latinising His name as “Apollo” and adopting as a State Goddess the Hellenic-Phygrian Kybele. But I digress….

Interpretatio graeca/romana is, in and of itself, merely an exercise by some ancients and modern practitioners to relate the Gods of one pantheon to another. Among modern practitioners, the exercise has been adopted by Asatruar and Keltic recons (who each seem to have their own name, depending on whether they’re Gaelig recon, Cymric recon, Gaulish, etc…), even though the only real evidence of this practise that exists among ancient writings exists pretty much among Romans writing of those groups. Interpretatio is, in and of itself, an imperfect means of relating the Theoi of one pantheon to another. Tacitus likens Hercules to Thor, though in modern times, the preference seems to be to compare Thor to Zeus. Other Roman writers compared the Gaelig Lugh to the Roman Mercury, though Moderns prefer to align Him with Apollon. The Gaelig Brighid was comparable to Minerva, in ancient Rome, though modern conventions liken Her to Vesta. The fact remains that Keltic (or Norse) Deity A does share some qualities with Roman/Greek Deity A, but also shares traits with Roman/Greek Deity B. Interpretatio may be a highly flawed means of relating the Theoi to Deities of other pantheons, after all, these Gods are easily determined to be very incongruent in certain ways, but it’s still an interesting exercise, even if one’s practises aren’t syncretic by definition, in studying how certain Theoi can relate to each-other.

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Óengus mac ind Og (“Chosen-One the Young Son” or “Son of Youth” in Irish Gaelig) pantheon. He is a God of Love, Music, and Youthful Beauty, He also has solar associations and is considered the Gaelig counterpart to the Cymric (Welsh) God Mabon ap Modron (“Divine Son of Divine Mother”, in Welsh), a God of Youth and Healing; already, it’s very apparent why He would be of particular interest to me, as one whose primary cultus is paid to Eros and Apollon.

Common descriptions of Óengus state that He is followed by songbirds, who some say total no more than four, and who some say represent kisses; the author of one website I found a few weeks ago (and, of course, my del.icio.us FireFox extension was giving me issues on that day — but the latest FireFox update seems to be wrought with problems, anyway, but I digress) attribute the practise of signing love-letters with “[name] xxxx” to left-over and mostly-forgotten reverence to Óengus, going on to state that four is the perfect number for this, for any less would be platonic or familial, and any more would be wasted or a sign of desperation.

Hyakinthos on Apollon's swan A popular story about Óengus mac ind Og involves His love for the princess Caer Ibormeith: It is said that He had a dream of her and, so wrought with lovesickness, His Divine parents had all the Gods of the land search for this girl in order to bring His spirits back up. When she was found, first the task was in order to make sure that she was the right girl, and Óengus found her pretty much instantly. Then the Gods transformed her and ninety-nine other maids into swans, telling Aengus that if He could find his beloved in her swan form, then their love is one that is truly meant to be. When Óengus found her, He turned Himself into a swan form, and the two flew off, making their own beautiful calls over the other birds left on the ground.

Of Óengus’ adopted children include the hero Díarmait Ua Duibhne, roughly translated to “Díarmait of the Love Spot”, who is said to bear a spot on His forehead that no woman can look upon without falling deeply in love with Him. When he became a beautiful young man, Díarmait was seduced by the maiden Gráinne, who was bethrothed to an aging military leader, Finn. Finn pursued the two, with Gráinne being rescued by Óengus, who had vowed to protect the young lovers, and Díarmait escaped by protecting himself with his weapons given to him by Óengus and other Gods. Eventually, the wear on Díarmait fleeing Finn and protecting himself took its toll and Díarmait was slain by Finn’s wild boars, and though he died, Díarmait’s body was spirited away by Óengus, Who prevented Díarmait’s body from decaying, and Who could occasionally be able to give Díarmait just enough life at a time to speak with Óengus.

Some similarities between Óengus and Eros are apparent — the possible importance of the number four (though the Keltoi had no written language of their own before Christianisation, so I’d need to research this more closely before saying it’s anything more than modern speculation), sacred birds, eternal youth, and a “fated” love story. Other elements to His lore and mythos seem to more closely recall Apollon (solar associations, the gift of spears to Díarmait, the presence of music, also eternal youth), while others (the preservation and short-term periodic revivals of the dead) are at their best, rather difficult to compare to either Apollon or Eros, and indeed are not shared between Óengus and either Theos at all.

But one thing that drawing interpretatio between Eros and other “Love Gods” of other pantheons benefits even one who has little more than academic interest in syncretism is that it brings connections to other Theoi of the Hellenic pantheons to light. Díarmait, for example can be viewed as analogous, in some ways, to Adonis: Their shared mortal births, Divine rearing, perceived irresistability, and death by boar — Díarmait’s ill-fated love was with a young mortal woman, but his death brought from a jealous older competitor can be stretched to be analogous to Ares, in some versions of the Adonis myth; the fact that Díarmait is periodically revived from death is comparable to Adonis’ status as a life-death-rebirth deity in ancient Greece. Adonis is relevant to the Eros/Apollon parallels not merely because of Adonis’ close relations to the Aphrodite cultus in ancient Hellas, but because in some obscurer versions of the Adonis mythos, Adonis is said to “lay as a man with Aphrodite and as a woman with Apollon”, with some implications seeming to be that He spent His third part of the year with Apollon.

Of course, even before I became aware of the obscurer connections of Adonis to Apollon, I had felt especially drawn to the revived reverence of Adonis, simply as an extension of my cult to the Erotes.

Whether or not this means that Eros “is” Óengus or that Díarmait “is” Adonis is, quite frankly, not at all for me to say. It can just as easily be said that Óengus “is” Apollon or “is” a Masculine Interpretation of Aphrodite or Persephone. Regardless of the imperfection of the interpretatio, the Óengus mythos remain dear to me as a tool to learning more about Eros and how he related to the other Theoi. Ill-fated lovers are common in the Apollon mythos (Apollon, though associated with quite strongly Healing, can also bring Pain and Suffering); Adonis was often worshipped alongside Aphrodite, as was Eros — I’m sure that I’d think of more if I wasn’t running a blood-sugar low at the moment.

All very interesting things to mull on in the vast realm of Eros worship.

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.