As Dver was recently musing, I’m again amazed and rather dismayed, but likewise not at all surprised, that I wrote one of the longest and most theologically and practically significant blog posts this month earlier today, in two multi-hour sessions with an interlude for a few hours’ sleep (not to mention having thought about it and researched it for the last week or so), but it has had less than seven views; however, I posted a kind of meta-blogging and meta-narrative post about some problems in the pagan and polytheist blogospheres late last night, and it’s had nearly ninety views, and I’m already at a higher total blog hits day now than I have been for the last four days.
Sad, folks. Sad.
In any case,
I come here not to praise the pagan community, but to bury it my present purpose is not to make anyone feel worse about the community than they already do, but instead to tell you about how our ritual went this evening.
And, it was lovely!
I didn’t have the presence of mind to get photos taken during it, nor before or after–but, in a sense, that tells me that I did, in fact, have the correct presence of mind for actually doing the ritual. While having something to show for posterity and share with others is always nice, immersing oneself in the experience and fully engaging with the divine beings honored and the community members gathered is far more important and essential than keeping mementos, visual or otherwise.
So, I shall be recycling some photos, and getting others from elsewhere, to illustrate some of what went on, and where we were.
This photo is from 2001, but it was on Winter Solstice.
[Note the Sabazios gesture...this was more than a decade before I began actively worshipping him, and probably about two years before I had even heard or read or knew much at all of him, to be honest!]
That was December 21, 2001, when I lived in Ireland. I was at Drombeg Stone Circle in West Cork (near Roscarberry, if I am remembering correctly), which I was at on Winter Solstice the previous year as well, and which I sort of developed a bit of a relationship with (though a somewhat fleeting one) on a field trip for archaeology several months before that in September of 2000. The stone circle is aligned to Winter Solstice sunset, and we were there for that moment in 2000 and 2001 together with about 50 other students from my university, and 100+ or so other local people who also come each year–and, the second year, a group of school kids, who had been inspired by some of what we did spontaneously the year before, wrote up a short drama in dance and song that they performed, which was sort of odd, but also rather inspiring and reassuring that the spirit of such things is only just below the surface for the Irish (and, in my experience, for almost everyone else, too). There was, in that year the photo above was taken, storytelling (including, on my part, the birth of Cú Chulainn) and dancing and singing and all sorts of things, and you can see that, actually, in this photo, I’m leading the dancing! I include this photo not only because it is from an earlier Winter Solstice observance more than a decade ago, but because I am literally wearing several of the same things: the furry hat and the big polar long hoodie…alas, I don’t know where that plaid is at the moment, but I’d love to have worn it today, too. (I hope I find it in the near future, as I’d like to wear it for certain things at PantheaCon in February.)
I wasn’t exactly sure how many people would be joining me for the festivities today, and in the end, it turned out there were four of us total: one student who has been to several of my rituals over the last seven months, another student who joined us at the Shinto shrine for the mid-year purification and has never been to any sort of pagan event at all until today, and then a friend and colleague who is on the staff at my college that I’ve known since the seventh grade, and who I did not know was pagan until we spoke after close to twenty years, who was finally able to have the time to participate in a ritual with us. I was glad to have all of them there, and hope to have all of them (and others!) at future rituals, too.
We gathered at my residence, hung out for a bit, and then left to get offerings. Doing this took much longer than expected, because I was doing divination to see which bottle of wine would be preferred by the gods we would be honoring that night…and, they were more “difficult,” let’s say, in this process than they have generally been in my experiences before. Without knowing anything about the controversies on offerings that has been raging in the polytheist blogosphere lately, several individuals suggested, “This bottle is the cheapest,” but of course that wasn’t going to fly, and so I didn’t even bother the Ephesia Grammata with asking about those. However, the more expensive bottles didn’t seem to be particularly appealing to the gods, either. After many attempts to find what might be pleasing, and the equivalent of “whatever” as an answer several times, I asked if any of the possibilities in the store would please them at all, and got LIX, which is basically a solid and thunking “uh-huh,” especially where matters of a direct and material nature are concerned. Schooled, chastened, and bowed. There were some “maybes,” and even a kind of “eventually,” on a few of the choices I presented after that, and then at last, a bottle of wine called Jack, with a Jack from a deck of cards on it, seemed to meet their expectations, as it got the DAMNAMANEUS response, which is pretty much a “Fuck Yeah!” as well as being directly connected to the sun, and given the nature of the holy day and the identity of some of the gods we’d be honoring, this seemed to be at last their preference. One of the additional advantages of that bottle, though, was that it was a twist-off top bottle of wine, which if it had not been would have required that we buy a corkscrew, as none of us had the forethought to bring one either–so, bonus!
Yes, Virginia–it is worth the time to ask and make sure what one is doing is what would be appreciated by the recipients of offered gifts.
We then got food offerings of various sorts, and I also did something I’ve never done before, but will be doing more of in the future: I obtained some loose tobacco (which I think is intended for pipes).
Now, after all of that, which ended up probably taking close to an hour (and a visit to two stores), we needed a location. I decided that the following would be good:
This is the main area where we did most of our activities, which is in Causland Memorial Park in Anacortes. It was built in 1920, and has memorials for veterans from every war from WWI through to Vietnam. As some of our activities would involve honoring the warrior dead, and would involve some werewolf-warrior-connected matters, this seemed like a good idea to me.
After the initial invocatory hymn to Antinous, Hadrian, and Sabina that I often use these days, we did the food offerings, which we poured out from the raised/covered area shown above into this planter-like area of dirt directly in front of it, sort of at the epicenter of the amphitheatre-like structure you can see above…and, while we had not intended it to be this way, the smell from that area was quite wonderful afterwards. The gods, they do love their sweet smells, don’t they?
First, we took the tobacco and honored the land spirits–especially that (and those) of Fidalgo Island, Mt. Erie, and Kwekwálelwet, as well as all of the indigenous peoples who have lived on this land and whose hospitality we as a culture have abused over the past five centuries. We each offered a pinch, and then I poured out the rest of the bag (yes, all of it), which created such a wonderful and beautiful smell that is still on my clothes at the moment that we were all feeling quite atmospheric at that point…and that was only the first offering!
Next, we did wine, especially for Dionysos and Antinous Epiphanes–we each took a small sip of the bottle, but then the rest of the bottle went to them.
Next, we did pine nuts, most especially for Ceres, but also Tellus and Ops, and very especially for Nyx. We each took a few of them, but then poured the rest out for the goddesses before eating our own.
Next, we did golden raisins, for all of our ancestors. We each took a few, and as with the pine nuts, we poured them out for the ancestors before eating our own.
Next, we did a quart of organic milk for the child gods, particularly Harpocrates, Horus, and the newly-born Sol Invictus, and also honored Hathor and Isis with it. We did not drink any of the milk, but instead poured all of it out for these deities.
And, finally, I obtained a small bottle of Jägermeister, which I have been using in Antinous-related rituals since I started them on Foundation Day in 2002 (but only occasionally!). As that is strongly connected to hunters in my mind, I thought it would be especially appropriate not only for the warrior dead and veterans in whose memorial we were having our celebration, but also for all of the werewolves and the gods associated with that particular spiritual warrior (and by that I mean warriors who fulfill a specific role within a spiritual system, not someone who is metaphorically a warrior and is only an “inner” or “peaceful” warrior) tradition. Some of us had a small sip of it, but the rest went to the warriors and the werewolves.
[In case you wondered, that was about $60 worth of offerings total that were poured out. None of us are particularly rich, but we were able to afford this together without too much difficulty. I hope that on future ritual occasions, I might be fortunate enough to be able to offer more to the gods, land spirits, and ancestors.]
After the offerings, we sang many of the songs that I’ve done during this time, including the new one for Antinous Harpocrates, the old “Khaire Khaire Epiphanes,” the “Carol of the Tetrad,” the “Saturnalia Song” as well as “Saturnalia” (from last year), and all (but the three-ish verses that still remain to be written!) of “Gaudete Invictus Natus.” While several people did not know certain tunes involved, they still participated–and that, too, is extremely important, folks. We had a slight “venue change,” because I was not wise enough to bring a flashlight with me, and in the undercover area, it was pretty dark by this point; however, as is always the case with this ritual when I’ve held it outside, the precipitation died down eventually. We relocated to a place more central to the park which had lighted lamp posts, and did several of the songs from there. As we did this, a few people came into the park and passed through; as we weren’t in the middle of a song, but were going over some lines of it so people would know them, I greeted them and wished them well and asked them how they were doing, and they said they were good, and that also us singing in the park was “bringing joy to their hearts.” So, we weren’t just honoring the gods and other divine beings, we were entertaining the populace and were contributing to good holiday spirit and public morale–win, win!
After this, we returned to the covered area, and I took out my small portable Egyptian-style statue of Antinous, and we honored him while I sang the “Frankensteinian Hymn” to him, which seemed to be very well-received, at least from my perspective.
And finally, though we had far fewer people than I’d prefer, and some aspects of our location weren’t entirely ideal, at last I was able to enact the “Solstice Mumming” involving werewolves after a hiatus of about six or seven years! It was stripped down and odd in many respects, but it all “worked” the way that it should, and everyone had a good time doing it.
We wrapped things up, made sure all of the packages and such from the food offerings were diligently collected and no litter was left behind, and we went from there to our post-ritual feast, which was a meal fit for the most elite, haughty, and luxurious of kings, and at which even Croesus would cringe at the expense, provided by the good people at Jack in the Box. (Yes, I’m serious about the location…but not any of the parts about the meal before that.) The service was less-than-ideal, unfortunately, but everyone there was quite nice, and we were all in a rather festive mood, and ended up having a spirited conversation over dinner ranging across many different topics. The first warrior foray of Cú Chulainn was recounted in part at one point over dinner, as befits a hero, and its relevance to “warrior-return” and re-integration rituals was discussed, which we may end up performing for some of the individuals in our group that were present for this ritual, as well as our other friends and colleagues at the college who are in or are associated with the group. I look forward to the possibility of that in the near future.
One of our number had to depart earlier than the rest, so our remainder came back to my residence and spent a little while in conversation before they headed back to Whidbey, and I have been writing the present entry ever since.
I was honestly unsure, and rather worried about, not having some major ritual observance within the season of Saturnalia involving other people this year, but I’m very happy indeed for who was able to come and what we were able to do with relatively short notice and little planning, and the total lack of experience on almost all fronts with the majority of the participants. But, where there is a genuine will, there is a genuine way, and I am nothing if not a willful feckin’ bastard–and, I think the gods probably appreciate a bit of that…within reason.
I hope everyone’s Solstice was, and is, excellent, and I would love to hear how you may have marked the occasion in the comments to the present entry!