This is not going to be an easy post to write, because there’s a lot to it, and my time to do so today is much shorter and more fragmented than I would have hoped, alas. Thus, I will be composing this in chunks throughout the latter part of the day today…
But, as I was gathering my thoughts on this post over the last few days, the familiar phrase of Sannion (slightly modified for my own purposes) seemed most appropriate: Circles, folks…fucking circles.
To start the day in a festive manner, however, in line with the more common modern pagan understandings of the festival (somewhat flawed though they might be), I was listening to the following songs, and have been doing so relatively regularly over the last month or so as well. I give you the wonderful band Trickie Pixie, featuring the incomparably fetching S. J. Tucker, and the equally beautiful and talented Alexander James Adams…
And, I was there for those performances! Even though the official album recording versions are much cleaner, there’s still something about actual live music that never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck, and these performances are no exception…even four years on…
In the subject line of this post, I’ve listed several of the holy days of major significance that I am observing on this day, in their order of importance to me and my traditional outlooks personally. Pride of place, not surprisingly, goes to Antinous. His syncretism festival with Belenus also falls on this day. You can read my posts with more information on this occasion from 2011, which includes my poem on the boar-hunt that is found both in The Phillupic Hymns and Devotio Antinoo: The Doctor’s Notes, Volume One, and also my post from 2012, which includes a poem for Antinous and Belenus that can only be found there! My poem that will relate to this occasion for this year will follow in the next day or so…I’m still working on it, and it is proving to be more varied and multi-faceted than I had at first imagined.
Though, considering the general modern pagan associations with this particular holiday, I’m intrigued that I had never made a particular connection in its Antinoan valence until the last few weeks (in conversation with some of my students). Boars are, of course, porcine animals, and thus in the same general semantic area to pigs, whether wild or domesticated. We of course know of “were-pigs” most prominently in Greek tradition in Homer’s Odyssey, when some of Odysseus’ men have been turned into pigs by Circe’s magic. But, in more general Greek tradition, pigs are often associated with Demeter and the sacrifices of the Eleusinian Mysteries. But, they are also a common slang term for female genitalia. Interestingly enough, in Irish tradition, pigs are seen to be the natural enemies of dogs, and of course today we are celebrating a hunting festival, during which the use of hounds would not only be necessary, it would be assumed without question and would go without saying. And, interestingly enough, there are certain slang terms in Greek that connect dogs and hounds with…yep, you guessed it: penises! So, it is entirely possible to have a quasi-traditional, heterosexual, run-of-the-mill-pagan interpretation of the Venatio Apri/Boar Hunt festival even within a traditionally-informed Greek (or even Graeco-Celtic) understanding of the Ekklesía Antínoou!
How queer is that?!?
Today is also the fourth day of the games of the Floralia, stretching from April 28th to May 3rd. While Ovid’s Fasti gives the most details for the festival on May 3rd (or 2nd in this version, which differs from the Sir J.G. Frazer translation in the Loeb Classical Library, because Ovid actually had two lengthy entries for the 3rd, and the one on Floralia got combined in with May 2nd in the online translation I’ve been referring to…so, just note that!), some of his non-Floralia related entries on May 1 and 2, as well as his prelude to Book V on the name of Maia for the month of May are also of interest. Listen to this (or, rather, read it!), where the Muse Polyhymnia recites the reason that May is called May, after the goddess Maiestas:
‘After the first Chaos, as soon as the three primary forms
Were given to the world, all things were newly re-configured:
Earth sank under its own weight, and drew down the seas,
But lightness lifted the sky to the highest regions:
And the sun and stars, not held back by their weight,
And you, you horses of the moon, sprang high.
But Earth for a long time wouldn’t yield to Sky,
Nor the other lights to the Sun: honours were equal.
One of the common crowd of gods, would often dare
To sit on the throne that you, Saturn, owned,
None of the new gods took Ocean’s side,
And Themis was relegated to the lowest place,
Until Honour, and proper Reverence, she
Of the calm look, were united in a lawful bed.
From them Majesty was born, she considers them
Her parents, she who was noble from her day of birth.
She took her seat, at once, high in the midst of Olympus,
Conspicuous, golden, in her purple folds.
Modesty and Fear sat with her: you could see
All the gods modelling their expression on hers.
At once, respect for honour entered their minds:
The worthy had their reward, none thought of self.
This state of things lasted for years in heaven,
Till the elder god was banished by fate from the citadel.
Earth bore the Giants, a fierce brood of savage monsters,
Who dared to venture against Jupiter’s halls:
She gave them a thousands hands, serpents for legs,
And said: “Take up arms against the mighty gods.”
They set to piling mountains to the highest stars,
And to troubling mighty Jupiter with war:
He hurled lightning bolts from the heavenly citadel,
And overturned the weighty mass on its creators.
These divine weapons protected Majesty well,
She survived, and has been worshipped ever since:
So she attends on Jove, Jove’s truest guardian,
And allows him to hold the sceptre without force.
She came to earth as well: Romulus and Numa
Both worshipped her, and so did others in later ages.
She maintains fathers and mothers in due honour,
She keeps company with virgins and young boys,
She burnishes the lictor’s rods, axes, and ivory chair,
She rides high in triumph behind the garlanded horses.’
So, that’s very interesting from a variety of perspectives, not the least of which is that Ovid goes on to give several other examples of the etymology of Maia, including being named after Hermes/Mercury’s mother (the most traditional and well-known one) and each of them having equal relevance and validity since they were spoken by different Muses. But, that Maiestas is honored, even though she incited the solely-Gaia-born Gigantes to rise up against Olympus, is very intriguing indeed, and is suggestive of things Thracian and of Titanismos…
But, the May 1st entry of Ovid also has something interesting, especially in light of my semi-joking post of the other day:
The Kalends of May saw an altar dedicated
To the Guardian Lares, with small statues of the gods.
Curius vowed them: but time destroys many things,
And the long ages wear away the stone.
The reason for their epithet of Guardian,
Is that they keep safe watch over everything.
They support us, and protect the City walls,
And they’re propitious, and bring us aid.
A dog, carved from the same stone, used to stand
At their feet: why did it stand there with the Lares?
Both guard the house: both are loyal to their master:
Crossroads are dear to the god, and to dogs.
Both the Lar and Diana’s pack chase away thieves:
And the Lares are watchful, and so are dogs.
I looked for statues of the twin gods,
But they’d fallen with the weight of years:
The City has a thousand Lares, and Spirits
Of the Leader, who gave them to the people,
And each district worships the three divinities.
Why say this here, when the month of August
Rightfully owns that subject of my verse?
For the moment the Good Goddess is my theme.
There’s a natural height that gives its name to a place:
They call it The Rock: it’s the bulk of the Aventine.
Remus waited there in vain, when you, the birds
Of the Palatine, granted first omens to his brother.
There the Senate founded a temple, hostile
To the sight of men, on the gently sloping ridge.
It was dedicated by an heiress of the ancient Clausi,
Who’d never given her virgin body to a man:
Livia restored it, so she could imitate her husband
And follow his lead in everything.
So, not only do I note the presence of hounds here (on which more later!), but also that a temple of Bona Dea, the “Good Goddess,” is also mentioned. Hadrian founded a temple to Bona Dea Subsaxana; and, of course, some Romans syncretized Bona Dea to Fauna! Circles, folks, fucking circles…
But now, to Beltene (as it is spelled in the oldest source that mentions it) proper, and to the related Welsh holy day of Kalan Mai. In Ireland, this is a day associated with the invasions and occupations of the land by various peoples; in Wales, it’s a date that comes close to the time of Pryderi’s birth. While horses are associated with the latter (as well as hounds!), it’s not exactly a fertility holiday in any of the original Celtic contexts. But, I have heard a new and interesting neo-Gaulish calque on the holy day, with Belenus and Belisama bringing their gifts to the day–Belenus renewing and preserving the flocks with his fires, and Belisama renewing the land with flowers. I like it! No matter what, though, the land and the animals seem to be renewed, and human’s relationships with them are extended or strengthened or established via what happens. So, if that is the focus, congratulations! You’re doing what your Celtic ancestors and forebearers were doing!
Via Soli’s post on the occasion, as well as Galina Krasskova’s, this date is also Walpurgisnacht or Valborg. You can read a bit more about this here in its Christianized version, and of particular interest there is the notes about Walburga’s dog, and its possible relation to Nehalennia…who is a goddess I quite like as well. And, there again is the dog connection…hunting…I happened to be awake last night when a coyote started howling in our neighborhood, so I think that connects into all of this quite nicely, too. And, as Galina pointed out, her rituals were dedicated to Freyja, who I think would get along quite well with Flora…and, Freyja’s brother is Freyr, who is of course associated with boars as well. Circles, folks, feckin’ circles…
If you like to ride werewolves, incidentally, as your preferred Beltene or Kalan Mai activity (which is actually not entirely inappropriate!), then here’s a guide for how proper ladies should ride werewolves.
And to close this post, just one more note. This evening I was on Wyrd Ways Radio with Galina Krasskova and Laura Patsouris, which you can listen to here. It was tremendous fun, and I look forward to doing so again on another occasion in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future! Thank you, Galina and Laura, for doing the show, and for having me on it!
I have to go and write some poetry now, as well as some other things I’m not looking forward to writing (i.e. checks for bills), but which must be done.
Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to a ritual with REAL LIVE PEOPLE!, although we don’t quite know what we’ll be doing yet…but, there will be flowers, and it will be at Mt. Erie, so that’s a start in itself!
Ave Ave Antinoe! Ave Belene! Ave Flora Dea Flores!
Felix Venatio Apri! Felix Floralia! Beltene Mhaith duib! Bendigedig Kalan Mai i chwi! Guten Walpurgisnacht!