Back in March of 2012, I wrote a “Queer I Stand” column at Patheos.com’s Pagan channel which talked about a place I was able to visit before and after PantheaCon 2012: the Temple of Nyx, built by my friend, colleague, and co-religionist Anomalous Thracian, which, amongst other things, was the physical “seat” of House Thyrsatrae. I will quote from my column last year:
I’ve been in some so-called temple spaces in private homes that have had nothing special in particular about them. But, before and after PantheaCon, I was in a space known as the Temple of Nyx (or the Temple of Night), and it was one of the most amazing places I’ve been to in my entire life in terms of actualizing a numinous presence in every aspect of the physical environment that can be controlled. Technically, it is not even a “room of its own,” but instead is a section of a larger room that has had a wall (covered in tapestries and furs) installed around it, with a door, a raised floor, and various internal features. But, it works, and works extremely well.
Why? There are procedures for entering and leaving the Temple that must be followed by those who are using it. There are things stored inside the Temple, and I actually slept in the Temple on two nights—both of those matters are things which ancient polytheistic temples also did on a regular basis. But the dedicated and sanctified space of the Temple made it inviting to enter and pleasant to simply be in. It isn’t a community center or a meeting hall; it’s a holy place.
And, when it came time for ritual actions on my part to occur in the Temple, it was like standing in an amphitheater . . . with a megaphone . . . turned up full blast projecting into a sound system…!?! Using a dedicated polytheistic space for a dedicated polytheistic ritual made a gigantic difference to which rented rooms could not compare.
I’ve been to many sacred sites around the world in my travels during the last two decades. I’ve been to both Stonehenge (in the inner circle) and Newgrange, Emain Macha and Tara. I’ve been to a number of smaller stone circles, wedge tombs, and other megalithic sites in Britain and Ireland as well. I’ve been to sacred wells in Ireland and Britain, and to the ruins of Roman forts and temples along Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve been to churches as large and as continuously functioning as York Minster in northern England—the largest Gothic cathedral in Britain—and as small and ruined as Labbamolagga (whose founding saint is a form of the god Lug!) in north County Cork, Ireland. I’ve been to holy and numinous places in nature, both obvious and unexpected. And I’ve been to the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, Washington on many occasions—the only Jinja-Honcho recognized Shinto Shrine in the continental United States.
While many of these places were wonderful, memorable, and worth visiting for a variety of reasons, the energetic presence and cultivated spiritual environment of almost all pales in comparison to the Tsubaki Grand Shrine. Every time I go there for a ceremony, I enjoy myself, but I also get the definite feeling of the presence of the kami, which I can describe as a kind of cold, white, fresh-feeling energy that often becomes more prominent at particular parts of the ceremony. It is a kind of undifferentiated, impersonal energy, which energizes and refreshes one’s ki. Because this divine presence is actively cultivated and tended to on a daily basis, the entire Shrine grounds has an atmosphere that is entirely consonant with that energy.
Being in the Temple of Night, however, was another sort of experience altogether. Not only was there energy and divine presence, but there was also very strong personality to the presence and the energy. It is personality that didn’t come from all of the wonderful accoutrements, physical fittings, and the material atmosphere of the Temple, or from the people who created it and tended it on a daily basis—although, that is a large part of it. It is a personality in presence that comes from the deities who inhabit the space, under Nyx’s hospitality. (And, note, it is not just Greek-derived deities who inhabit the space!)
It is an interesting and fascinating place; it’s a beautiful and powerful place; it’s an important and dearly beloved place, not just by me and by the temple-keepr and founder of it, but by several other people who have experienced its hospitality and power directly. While more than 99.99999% of the modern polytheist community doesn’t know it exists and has not been there, the service to the modern effort of bringing polytheism back into the world in a tangible and significant fashion has been furthered inestimably by the existence of this temple for the past few years.
And now, it will no longer exist–at least for a while, until a suitable new location can be found for it to be re-founded. This, to me, and to Anomalous Thracian (and him far more than anyone else can possibly understand), is a thing of tremendous sadness and despair, and thus it needs public acknowledgement.
Today is the Portunalia, as I explained earlier, and thus it could be both an opportune and an inopportune occasion for a variety of things. I’m choosing in this case to judge that it is an opportune and appropriate time to begin undertaking the work that will be done today and tomorrow in relation to the Temple of Nyx, i.e. its decommissioning and physical dissolution for the moment, until it can be suitable re-located and re-founded. It is a good time to be doing that work; but, likewise, it is also an inopportune time for me and for the rest of the polytheistic community that was able to experience the temple, and for the wider polytheistic movement in general, to be losing this resource, even if very few had heard of it or had been to it. Not unlike the Buddhist notion of “dharma rain,” i.e. the beneficial impact on the physical environment around a temple or monastery that occurs because of that holy building and community’s presence, so to was there a “rain of kharis” that fell upon many in the Bay Area, and people further afield, as a result of the existence of the Temple of Nyx.
So, I have to take a few moments today and make a poetic tribute to that temple, and to wish its keeper and the many deities (including Antinous) who called it home for many years a safe and peaceful transition to their new location–which remains yet unknown and uncertain as to the time that it will be fully realized–as the process of transferring the temple’s spiritual and energetic core occurs, and the various shrines within it are reverently and safely stored for transportation. Elegiac couplets seem to be the name of the game, therefore…
Elegy for the Temple of Nyx
Not a pillar fallen from the pediment there,
only walls of wood and tapestry stand;
but, such walls are mighty, holding within great gods,
powers beyond mind’s grasp upon the earth.
No light profane lit up chamber within cave’s dark,
sacred fire and candle, lanterns flickered;
water fountains from the spring of Night made pure hands
offering in shelter of temenos.
Prayers were spoken, hymns were sung sweet, rites of pious
honored goddess Nyx and children plenty;
worlds were bridged and gods were greeted under roof’s stars,
Thracian, African, and other nations.
Sabazios, foremost Thracian god, was honored,
Kotys, Bendis, Candaon honored, too;
Nyx and Ker, the goddesses on highest altar,
Erebus between, beyond, cloaked darkness;
Egypt’s great gods also had their place in honor–
Set, Anubis, Sekhmet, fierce protectors.
Guest-seats laid out feasted Freyr when priests came therein,
oracles were given without fault, doubt;
sacrifices, libations, and holocausts burned,
incense, spirits, sweet smells filled the room’s air.
Ravens made their perches inside temple at times,
serpents had their shelters within cages;
ancestors, the Sanctus of the owl-face above
flickered when he found his pleasure below.
Hyperborean being, dolphin ancient, visits
swimming out of forgotten and far seas;
horses wandered far from herds on steppe lands distant,
stabled steadfast inside temple’s boundary.
Antinous joined with Thracian powers because
of Bithynian ties, Bendis’ children;
Tetrad++, children, Nyx’s own ones, were praised,
had their homes within those hallowed wall’s hall.
Many other gods and goddesses, whose names are
known or unknown had their welcome within;
spirits from each nation given sanctuary,
Nyx the hospitable hostess for all.
Time itself recoils to think that centuries pass,
but few indeed the years the temple stood;
Time itself will weep until circumstance again
allows raising of sacred foundations.
Goddess, and goddesses, gods and spirits, I call
upon each of you to protect relics,
bless the keeper-builder of the Temple of Nyx
until it may rise again in new place.
Hail to Nyx, Ker, and all the Thracian Powers,
the many gods and spirits who resided in the Temple of Nyx–
you will never be forgotten! Ignis Corporis Infirmat; Ignis sed Animae Perstat!
May the Temple of Nyx rise again, soon, and more gloriously!
May all of the gods bless the builder of the Temple,
and protect him on his journeys to rebuild his Goddess’ abode!