A time for Celebration

Today marks a year since my initiation by formal ritual (22nd of October 2015). As such I thought I’d celebrate this with the 30 days of devotion challenge. This will be dedicated to Dionysos. Most of this writing will be deliberately written as a brief, only exploring basic concepts. I hope turns out as a basic and helpful resource for new comers.


A basic introduction to Dionysos

Dionysos was and still is a popular god, most famously known as the god of wine, but he has many other important attributes. Our first archaeological proof of his name comes from linear-B clay tablets found in Pylos, dating his existence (in terms of proof) to 1200BCE. Dionysian cultic expressions, such as ambiguous artefacts that share similar themes, go far back further into history, meaning it is more than possible that his cult existence is much older, potentially running far into pre-history.

In terms of linguistics his name is very unusual, “Dios” is usually regarded as Zeus/God, the “nysos” part being linguistically mysterious in origin. Both ancient and modern scholars have attempted to find its meaning, the most accepted being God of Mount Nysa – the mountain where Dionysos was raised and protected as an infant. The others meanings being: Dios NousMind of Zeus. Diemai nũsahe who runs amongst tree. Nonnos claims that it means Zeus-Limp, the Nysos meaning limping in Syracusan language. (Source: Ecstatic by H. Jeremiah Lewis)

By the classical period of Athens, Dionysos was well established as the god we know today, the god of wine, theatre, mystery, nature and ecstasy. There were two major festivals dedicated to him one being: Lenaia (celebrated between January to February) and Anthesteria (February to March; dates depends on the lunar cycle). Lenaia being a private civic festival celebrated by woman and comedic plays, Anthesteria being a public festival lasting three days, including massive theatrical performances, games, pomp / parades, public mockery, drunkenness and fun, coming of age ceremonies and finally a day of the dead. After Anthesteria in Athens the Dionysia spread throughout Greece with traveling performers dedicating plays and inviting celebrations to the far reaches of the Hellenic world.

There is always a misunderstanding of Dionysos, he is often considered the god of excess, sexual promiscuously, god of hedonism… but Dionysos is a god of duality. The God that confronts. As equal to his celebratory nature is his death (chthonic) connection. This expression of Dionysos is found in his mysteries and funerals. Many Dionysian artefacts, such as pottery, sarcophagus, votive icons etc., originate from funeral sites. In fact, a large sum of what we know of Dionysos and his cult originates from tombs and grave monuments. A god of life and a god of death.

The Dionysos of the afterlife became popular especially with the unusual Orphic cult that sometimes see Dionysos as a saviour of souls. Being initiated into this cult granted passage to blissful death, the end of the grievous cycle of reincarnation.

Dionysos is also a god of nature and agriculture. He has strong connections to earth including seasons. He is a god of trees, plants and fruits.

As I’m attempting to keep this brief I will discuss one final major aspect of Dionysos as being the god of Ecstasy. This is perhaps the eldest expression of Dionysos, (I suspect it having to do with what we now call Shamanism.) Dionysos is the god of Epiphany, The God that Comes, he does this through ecstatic performance of man. If it be through intoxication via substances, dance, music or performance. He manifests and blurs the lines of reality inviting us into the divine through his ecstatic presence. He breaks down the inhibitions and logic that hinder our potential and opens the world to us. This gift he grants to all humanity, regardless of who you are.

So you see Dionysos is a god of many things.

Icon painting by Wayne McMillan

My partner Wayne is offering icon oil paintings on board. 6 by 8 inch icon is $350USD. Larger sizes are possible increasing from the base price.

These are original, one of a kind, pieces of devotional art. Created to be used as sacred icons.

As these are religious work there are some terms and conditions:

– Wayne maintains the right to deny work for whatever reason.

– Payment for the artwork must be up front before work begins.

– Payment preference is PayPal or direct bank transfer.

– These pieces are painted in the highest professional quality oil paint on prepared board, they can take a few months to design, create, dry and ship. We expect clients to be aware of how much time they can take.

– As of now this is part time work, we both have multiple projects going. Clients are welcomed and encouraged to request updates if there are delays. But please respect that these take time, you have been warned. (Twice now.)

– Wayne and myself are experts on the Hellenic / Italian pantheons, these cultures are a preference. Other pantheons such as: Norse, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Hindu and Asian etc. may be possible. For obscure or unfamiliar gods we expect client input. We will go through an interview process if required. Monotheist religious icons *may* be possible, this has to be negotiated, we are polytheists… there are plenty of talented Christian iconographers out there.

– Clients are welcomed to give input, but the artwork is final. Alterations to the design based on client input may require extra funding at our discretion.

– Paintings can be shipped by post, but must have insurance, tracking, etc. If clients prefer we can ship by courier or other options, obviously, expect much higher costs for these services.
Our shipping fees to the US range between $40 to 60+USD.
Australian postage is between $20 to $30+AUD.
International courier prices are between $90 to 170+ USD.
We prefer to give a quote and request the amount for shipping when the painting is packed and ready to ship. So please set some money aside for the final shipping quote.

– It is possible to order multiple paintings which can be shipped together. Note that there is an insurance threshold for standard post, $2000 AUD.

– Wayne owns the copyright of all artwork. Clients may request limited licensing for prints and sales. This must be negotiated prior to use.

We attempt to be as fair as possible with our clients and we both take this work very seriously as a devotional duty. Each piece is consecrated with prayers and offerings during the creation and the packing process.
My input is limited, however I aid Wayne in some areas such as spiritual services and research. I act as liaison between clients and Wayne. If you would like to take a commission you may contact me at: markos.gage@gmail.com

No, kids. This is the future

Disclaimer: The Dionysian Artist, Δ, is apolitical unless the arts are under attack.


[Keating joking about establishing a museum of Australian culture under Liberal leadership] “We thought we could basically make the changes and put some of the cultural icons of the 1950s down there. […] The Morphy Richards toaster, the Qualcast mower, a pair of heavily protected slippers, the Astor TV, the AWA radiogram. And, of course, the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Bennelong could go there as well. When the kids come and look at them they will say, ‘Gee, mum, is that what it was like then?’. And the two Johns can say, ‘No, kids. This is the future’. Back down the time tunnel to the future—there they are.”
Prime Minister Paul Keating, famous ‘Cultural Cringe’ speech , 1992.

The Australian political right has had a long history of attacking the arts. They are known to openly assault funding to museums, galleries, artists and art work purchases, art censorship and classification, film and theatre, music, dance… the entire spectrum of art. No amount of protest by the public and experts in the Arts and also economists has hindered their vile and unmerited fund cutting. This behaviour is referred to as The Cultural Cringe.

This was exemplified last year with a proposal to dismantle the Australian Arts Council, an independent organisation that administers government grants to artists in all fields. The Liberal’s suggestion was to consolidate a new arts organisation run directly by the government, in effect creating an Orwellian Ministry of Truth. Since the previous government was removed by itself this never came to complete fruition. However full funds have not been returned to the Australian Arts Council.

Instead was an announcement last week of fund cutting to the Tertiary education loan repayment system known as VET. Adding insult to injury saying that the government only supports “Legitimate education pursuits.” Labelling arts a “lifestyle choice”. Almost 60 arts related courses are to have VET eligibility suspended and a total of 478 courses.

When one looks at the list (below) it is apparent that this is targeting the film and performance industry the most. The biggest arts industries and in fact one of the biggest money making industries the world over, grossing higher revenue than the mining sector and agriculture.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Australia was next to New Zealand in producing large scale Hollywood movies, for example: the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix films, Moulin Rouge!. This prompted investments into new movie studios in Sydney and Melbourne. Of which are now rarely used. The movie industry in Australia has completely died because lack of support from the government and the GFC. (Not to mention that John Howard, another Liberal, literally sold our culture to the US.)

However when one looks east to our cousins in New Zealand their film industry is thriving, with its citizens considered experts of modern movie production, they are often subcontracted for US Hollywood movies like Avatar. How do they do this? The New Zealand government invested in arts and as a result it has become one of the country’s major exports, this also influences other sectors like tourism and hospitality.

Let’s look at some of the other courses being cut, they include Jewellery design, Floristry, Journalism and Professional Writing.  All of which are valid careers paths. Of note: I did Dip. of Professional Writing in 2008, at the time it was FREE! This blog would not be what it is without the course. So since 2008 the government has made these courses paid, via student loans, to denying the loans altogether.

In regards to writing courses it’s interesting to note that Australia is a reading culture, reputed to be one of the biggest consumers of books in the world. Ever wondered how a media tyrant Rupert Murdoch rose from a hick nation of Australia? Because we read a lot, we are world’s largest newspaper readers. Obviously writing, journalism is a locally supported arts industry.

Perhaps the most disturbing and racist is the cancelling of VET for the Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work. Aboriginal people are seriously underclass in Australia. When compared by ratio of Aboriginal deaths in police custody to the deaths of blacks in US it is frightening and disturbing that there is no mainstream, international, Black Lives Matter movement for Aboriginals.  So we have one of the most vulnerable, discriminated and poor groups being denied financial support for education. What’s more, arts is very important to Aboriginal communities, with Indigenous art being one of the main commodities that supports their culture and peoples, international sales of Indigenous art is a major Australian arts export.

In short I can go through each of these courses and demonstrate how these are not “hobby courses” but a legit vocational training. This is speaking from experience. I can not afford university and instead opted for TAFE (Technical college) Diploma of Visual Arts and partial Diploma of Professional Writing. These two courses helped me become who I am today, without them I would not be here. If I was born a generation later it would be impossible for me to get this necessary training to pursue a career in the arts to the capacity I have today.

I’ve been warning folk about this nihilism in Australian politics for a long time, I’ve been pointing out the constant erosion of Australian culture by the Neo-conservative right-wing government. Yet the public keep voting for these degenerates. It looks like Keating’s vicious rhetoric has failed and instead he has become a prophet: ‘No, kids. This is the future’.

The list of Courses being affected by the cuts: (Source)

Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Musical Theatre
Diploma of Live Production Design
Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work
Diploma of Ceramics
Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Floristry Design
Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Diploma of Broadcast Technology
Advanced Diploma of Performance
Graduate Diploma of Classical Ballet
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Diploma of Fashion Styling
Diploma of Screen Acting
Diploma of Screen Performance
Advanced Diploma of Acting
Diploma of Circus Arts
Diploma of Social Media Marketing
Advanced Diploma of Acting for Contemporary Screen Media
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Creatives
Diploma of  Stage and Screen Performance
Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting
Graduate Diploma of Elite Dance Instruction
Advanced Diploma of Stage and Screen Acting
Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Music Theatre
Diploma of Cinemagraphic Makeup
Diploma of Styling (Fashion, Image and Media)
Advanced Diploma of Commercial Song and Dance Performance
Diploma of Journalism
Advanced Diploma of Art (Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Film, Television and Theatre Acting
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Acting)
Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Theatre Arts
Diploma of Product Design
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Stage Acting
Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Mass Communication
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Fashion Products and Markets
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) (Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Animation


The “S” Word

Image source (link) <– this is a really cool educational website. Check it out.

Most likely a response to the New Age Movement many call out the identifier of “Shaman” as cultural appropriation. I understand the contention, especially being aware of the origins of the word, it’s history and overuse in spiritual circles, academia and popular culture. However as it stands it is an apt word to describe certain spiritual practices found around the world that share a “common core” in their ecstatic actions and traditions, some of which are open to the West. This is my current definition of it:

“There is no definitive definition of shamanism used by anthropologists, rather, it used as a catch-all term for local ethnic beliefs and practices around the world that has a common core of members communicating with spirits and deities through ecstatic rituals. How one reaches these states vary greatly, but in general shamans utilise dance, drumming, mask donning, identity transference / acting, substance use, etc. A secondary aspect of shamans is initiatory rituals which simulate or physically enact a near-death experience. This experience gives the shaman insight into the afterlife.”

Many traditions perform these shamanic acts, often with their own cultural titles to describe the spirit workers. Without intentionally inciting insensitivity it is it’s overuse that allows the general populace to understand what a writer is discussing, without providing additional context.

An example of this is the common misunderstanding of The Dionysian Artists. Many, including friends and family assume that I identify with the guild because I am an artist. However, it is conceivable for a member *not* to identify as an artist in the sense we know now. The Western view of a shaman may be applicable in describing the acts and mysteries of The Dionysian Artists.

This is a subject I explore in an essay written for the next issue of Walking the Worlds (submissions close in Nov. ‘16.) In brief I explore the various themes found in the cults of Dionysos, especially the theatre. For the sake of ease I use shamanism as an adjective in describing the expression found in the theatre. Likewise I have a strong belief that ALL Western art originates from shamanic-like practices performed in pre-history.

I am fortunate because I have a lot of theory and research for the Dionysian Artists, I am privileged in using Shamanism as an adjective, others, however, may follow a different path and use it as a noun because there is no other descriptor for their practices.

In these instances I think it’s fine, “Neoshamanism” as it’s called, may draw upon closed ethnic traditions, but from what I have observed of it, it is totally different. They may utilise similar themes and actions that may be found in ethnic Shamanism, but adapt it to the point that these themes are general and common in open belief systems. They are themes, acts which can be traced in many world religions, including the Abrahamic and related fringe sects.

Last point, the critics I have seen mostly argue in favour of Native American tribes rights to the word… Given that the word originates from the East / Eurasia this is a wrong argument and is as insensitive as a Western person using the word to describe their practices.

So to critics of the used of the word I point my middle finger. This is an aspect of our overall culture. Being hung up on a word diminishes the spiritual acts and devotion one performs to their gods.

The Irony of a Dionysian “Fascist”

If you are a reader of Sannion’s blog you may have noticed a theme that has been continuing for a while related to Heathens United Against Racism director Ryan Smith and his targeting of Sannion’s wife Galina for her ‘controversial’ commentary and opinion on the AFA.

I’ve read through most the commentary and find it mildly entertaining, but otherwise completely useless in terms of progressing in art, education and devotion. However Sannion’s previous post, We are pariahs. is really beautiful and truthful. I’m a proud member of The Bacchic Underground and it has become an awesome secluded area of the internet where I can talk to fellow polytheists and Dionysians.  It really is a place where you shrug off the self-generated ‘controversies’ of the pagan community and engage with people.

Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it is damn serious, but it is always respectful. This balance is something I have not seen anywhere else online. Ever.

The reason for this is that Dionysians are accommodating, they should ideally be hosts at all times. This is very important aspect of our religious structure and a key to know Dionysos himself. The Dionysian cults of ancient times were very popular because they were accommodating to everyone. They embraced women, slaves, elderly, races, children, physical ill, mentally ill etc. – there is no minority or majority which would be denied by the cults. And yes, they have been historically targeted, tortured, abused and executed because of this, (well before Christianity I might add!)

We *are* pariahs. We are the outcasts, the rejects. We are Dionysians.

Teaching Devotion

One of my favourite TV shows is Rome. It has faults as in simplification of historical events and for dramatic purposes expanded on real characters which boarders on fantasy, but in general it is an entertaining and beautiful TV series. What I really enjoyed is the depictions of Roman religion, how it was not something that was enforced by a doctrine of rules (well not always) but how it was pervasive in their culture. Every breath, every word, every action was given to the gods. This concept is presented in the show intro, with Roman graffiti and murals coming to life on the streets, illustrating the myths.

In the first episode one of the lead characters ,Titus Pullo, is thrown in prison. He makes a series of prayers for his release while drawing a phallus on a board as a foci. This is a naturalistic ritual, he is performing an act of devotion in a situation that is dire.


The themes of causal personal worship continue throughout the series, we see examples of household worship, casual communion, crafting one’s own icons etc. We also see formal rituals, the long tedious forms of cleansing and devotion. Therefore ritual protocol changed between circumstances.

Nowadays in the Hellenic polytheist community, we attempt to replicate devotion as it were in Ancient times,  however the sources we go by are what was expected by priests, initiated and nobility / royalty.  These are highly formulaic with set expectations. They were so important to ancient authors merited recording them.

This is the issue with us today. We get bogged down with recorded sources and begin establishing doctrines and protocol based on formal ritual. When in reality of ancient people their forms of devotion would had been a lot more casual, relaxed and personal.

The major issue here is with new comers. Often mentors prescribe a set of ritual acts, of how to give prayer that is based upon known formal ritual. Whereas for the ancients it was ingrained in their culture, it was a natural language to them, which just like every day conversation changed in manner depending on circumstance. This is not something that can be taught easily to newcomers and presents a challenge to mentors. Thus they go with formal methods.

I have mixed feelings about this, it’s better to play it safe, but also I fear we are setting the bar to high and ultimately intimidating the new. It’s unintentionally establishing an orthodoxy when it does not belong in our religion.  Lastly, a common complaint from newbies is that they are scared that they  will “do it wrong” and don’t do anything at all! This is sad and a sign of failure on the mentors part.

What I strive to do as a mentor is encourage a personal development first. I encourage those I’m teaching to first establish their own method of communicating and progress from there. Core concepts of spiritual cleanliness, ritual gesturing, mediative thought, ritual protocol etc., should be set aside for later date. I instead give suggestions of what you *can* do, not what you *should*. Then proceed from there.

All of it is true, we do have a praxis, a manner of speaking to address the divine that is important to give respectful devotion. Yet to start out I believe we should first establish a platform for casual communication and teach one step at a time.

Art for God’s Sake


Many polytheists have an identity or a ‘theme’ for their personal cultus, some are devoted to a particular god/s, others include sexuality and gender, some use politics. My main focus is art, all art, I quite literally worship art. It serves as the foundation for everything I do and is an expression of my relationship with the gods. It does not matter if I’m making art, writing about art, enjoying art or criticising art, everything is devoted to it as a language between my gods. Thus I see all art as sacred, regardless of if I think it is trash or if it is offensive to me, I will never attempt to censor, destroy or limit art.

This is not a view shared by many today, even within my own community of polytheists and Dionysians. It is a trend, long running now, to not only censor, but destroy art, to limit artists and their possibilities.

At The House of Vines Sannion has been discussing this, first a comment from G&R where they have linked Neo-Folk “and other artistic movements” to the “New Right” and then an article on the ban of traditional Black Faced Morris dancers in England reported by The Wild Hunt. The latter critique from Sannion reminded me of something I read last week with the trans community being upset at a Cis-gay actor Matt Bomer playing a transgender role. The discussion being furthered by including the history of straight actors playing trans, and calls that only gays should play gay roles too.

I have long been a supporter of the trans community, I am usually included or categorised into the LGBT community. I am damn proud of the inclusiveness that T in that abbreviation, but I draw the line here. This is limiting art, this is destroying art. BOTH WAYS. A good actor regardless of sex should be able to play a character regardless of sex. This means a male should be able to play a woman or trans, a woman should be able to play a man or trans, a trans should be able to play a man or a woman or trans.

My god wears woman’s clothes and over his dress he dons armour, he pins his hair in female fashion and sports a beard. He is a god that transcends gender and guess what? The theatre is his temple. The theatre therefore reflects him, it is a fluid domain where masks are removed to be replaced by other masks. The actors are the ones that does this divine act, they are the expressions of Dionysos regardless of what role they play and what sex they as individuals identity as.

Forcing limits on gender roles based on the “real-life” identifiers therefore impends art, it shackles something that should be free. While I personally strongly encourage producers and directors to hire Trans actors to play Trans, enforcing that *only* trans, or gays, (or any other role, including disability, and yes even race), typecasts actors based *only* on who they are in “reality”. It limits their ability to produced good art, it destroys the fantasy and impedes art.

The actual sex, gender of the actor should never determine the role.



As fallout from the Many Gods West comes through on social media a major discussion focus right now is Miasma. Miasma has been a discussion point within Hellenic Polytheism for as long as I can remember and my memory is only restricted to the last sixteen years I’ve been a Hellenic polytheist.

Most of these discussions occurring now (the ones I’m aware of) are taking place on personal facebook pages so I cannot reference them. But some are going to lengths to mock the concept. The source of contempt is because some folk expressed that the MGW would be miasmic after the shit storm of banning a key and well know polytheist from the event for publishing satire. Because people have expressed that it was miasmic this has led others to accuse the concept as being ‘sin-like’ and used in the same manner to assert authority… Whatever. (Politics)

Personally I think miasma is a ‘advanced’ topic and one that should be reserved for priests and serious partitioners. Suffice to say I believe a layman partitioner can survive just performing basic khernip washing before going before the gods and need not think about it much unless required.

Anyway, what is miasma?

I’m currently involved in a study group where we have been discussing miasma this is one of definitions of it I wrote:

“Miasma is a spiritual pollution that prevails all, it is not a ‘evil’ thing, but a matter of fact. I really like the allusions that Carl Kerenyi provides in his introduction of Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, where Kerenyi discusses the differences between the two Greek concepts of life – Bios and Zoe. Accordingly both forms of life exist and are interconnected, but one means living death (aka rot) – bios, the other means living immortality – Zoe. Bios is what we live in, whereas Zoe is the memory of our lives after death. To me Miasma is bios, the rotting force of life, whereas the divine is pure Zoe – eternal life. If we surround ourselves in miasmic (bios) we become dissociated from the divine (Zoe).”

Miasma is therefore something we incur in life, everyday life. From being ill, overhearing hubris, being exposed to things that affect us emotionally, being exposed to certain death situations, going to weddings, having sex, giving birth, breaking  a taboo etc. Miasma also generates in areas, buildings, objects – so it’s not just a human thing. But something that lingers in the environment.

I strongly suspect that miasma is related to transition and change too. When I underwent an initiatory experience last year I was thrown about quite a bit in terms of miasma, I’m actually still recovering from it. Also I personally practice ritual hair cutting as a form of cleansing whenever I move house or go through serious life transitional states. (The hair cutting is UPG.)

So we also see it is a personal thing, how it affects people is dependent on the person.

It is also levelled in ‘grades’ certain things that are miasmic may have higher or lower grade, e.g. a death of a close relative is extreme miasma and requires months of mourning to overcome.

What are the effects?

Depends, most people describe feeling dirty, slimly, depressed, impeded in some way in their devotion. It is a disconnection from the divine in some sense.

So how do you avoid it / clean it?

There is nothing we can do to truly avoid miasma, we are living beings in a constant state of rot. No amount of purity can strike it from our lives. Basic cleansing of miasma include Khernips (blessed holy water). But things like fasting, forced marching (walking), music, art, ritual, expression etc., can counter it too. It really depends on the circumstances.

So now I’ve gone over the basics I will answer some questions that have been asked.

Why do weddings cause miasma?

This is really an issue with our current culture. Our views on death are extremely limited.
Marriage was synonymous with a funeral, likewise was initiatory mystery tradition. Marriage, funeral and initiation were all linked.
It was an act of killing off one identity and creating a new one, especially for the bride. These traditions still continue today, it’s just we forget their meaning. But they usually include name changing (in fact if we examine every traditional aspect of the modern marriage ceremony it has direct parallels with The Eleusinian Mysteries.) The Eleusinian Mysteries was itself a ‘re-enactment’ of the marriage of Kore to Haides – the death of Kore and rebirth of her as Persephone.
That is why marriage causes miasma. We are witnessing the death of the maiden to become a woman.

What if it is a same-sex wedding or no names are changed?

Name changing is an example only. In general however marriage is a recognition of a union in terms of social, civic and religion- (though the latter is subject to the folk involved.)
The process, regardless of sex, is a transition of identity. When we move from one state to another we generate miasma.

(Point of note here, we have one example of a Dorian ritual in Crete which is similar to same sex marriage. Where the younger boy would undergo an initiation like ceremony.)

Does menstruation cause it?

This is contentious but I’m of the opinion no, it doesn’t. There is next to nothing in terms of classical sources linking menstruation to miasma. It appears it was not regarded as anything more or less than any other bodily function.  A lot of people nowadays assume it would because other cultures have taboos against women, but the Greeks appear different.

That said, a woman ill from the effects of menstruation may be regarded as miasmic, but that is a result of sickness, not the actual period.

Do abortions cause miasma?

I’d say it’s safe to assume it does, but the whole area is grey. I mention this question as we have an example of how this was cultic dependant. Ancient Greeks seem pretty okay with abortion in general, at least from what we know. But there was a cult of Dionysos that forbade women from entering a temple if she had an abortion. It prescribed ritual cleansing akin to what a murderer would have to perform to be cleansed of their crime. It looks like this was a particular cult taboo. Which illustrates what generates miasma, what effects it has and means of cleansing is cultus specific.

(Update) More questions:

What about killing in war?

Generally, justly defending your nation and home does not generate miasma, in some circumstances it can counter it and may be seen as a form of devotion. Murder was one of the worst crimes to commit and temples would expel murderers – but there was a clear difference between defending and murder in ancient times (we share similar beliefs now.)

Does blood cause miasma?

Depends. This is an complex subject – blood is the essence of life and is extremely sacred. It can generate miasma. But it can also be used in devotion. This question is so complex I will only keep it brief here.

So animal sacrifice? Handling meat?

In an ideal situation our meat should be always be ritually slaughtered by trained polytheist priests, i.e., animal sacrifice. This meat is blessed and goes through a process of spiritual cleansing, it is also examined both physically and spiritually with auspice reading. If there is any miasma generated from the slaughter it is counteracted through the ritual process.
We live in a new situation today, one that the ancients obviously didn’t think about, so the subject of handling meat is up to us to determine. My opinion is yes, meat brought from the supermarket is miasmic. Ideally prayers and blessings should be given to the meat.

Walking through graveyards?

If it is done respectfully I see no problem here, if any miasma is picked up it is no different any other everyday action. Paying respect to the dead is cathartic and healthy.

Anyway, I’ll wrap this up here. If you have more questions feel free to leave them in the comments I’ll update if they come.

Medusa meme


Over on facebook in a private group is this meme being shared relating to Medusa and her apparent African origins. The meme is extremely questionable, especially considering it is completely lacking sources and any reference to where the info is coming from. However it has likewise caused protest amongst some Hellenic Polytheists who appear to be misinformed about the cultural exchange between the Greeks and nations south of the Aegean.  Below is my response, due to facebooks nature I couldn’t include links or images which I have done here and merits a proper blog post:

This meme is very misleading and questionable but there are some interesting notes in this regard. The iconography of the Gorgon is extremely old, like pre-historic old, some historians suspect it was the first depiction of the face. (Marija Gimbutas) The oldest depictions are actually questionable in terms of sex, with the gorgon having both male and female features. They also share similar characteristics with The Master of Beasts iconography found in the Minoan culture. Universally Gorgons are apotropaic, warding off evil which can be connected to early shamanistic concepts. The mask-like quality of the gorgon also hints at other apotropaic deities like Dionysos. (Who likewise shares connections with the Master of Beasts, intersex nature and shamanic ties).

Part of the Aegina treasure. This golden pendant is called "Master of Animals". It is interpreted as showing an Cretan god in a field of lotus flowers. In each hand he holds a goose, while the background is composed of two unidentified objects that are considered to be either connected to "cult horns", the sacred horns of bulls, or maybe composite bows. British Museum Catalogue Jewellery #762.  (wikipedia)
Part of the Aegina treasure. This golden pendant is called “Master of Animals”. It is interpreted as showing an Cretan god in a field of lotus flowers. In each hand he holds a goose, while the background is composed of two unidentified objects that are considered to be either connected to “cult horns”, the sacred horns of bulls, or maybe composite bows. British Museum Catalogue Jewellery #762. (wikipedia)
Winged goddess with a Gorgon’s head, orientalizing plate, c. 600 BC, from Kameiros, Rhodes (Wikipedia)
digital tracing of a Greek pot, illustrating Dionysos tearing a dear apart.
A painting of Dionysos directly inspired from “Greek eye cups

Blacks were present early in Greece, some were slaves, but also some were free, meaning that they were not regarded as a specific ‘slave race’. (See slavery in ancient Greece). Blacks likewise did influence ancient Greek religion, a Dionysian hero -claimed to have introduced the Dionysian cult to Greece by Herodotus- is Melampus, referenced as being a black African that presented a Hellenic variant of Egyptian religion. We also have Aesop establishing tales that are regarded as Hellenic but share a cultural connection with his African origins. So yes, Greeks were influenced by Africa in some sense.

Blacks were depicted in Greek art too, in some instances they are illustrated with satyr like features or examples of satyrs, relating to Dionysos. Also there are curious pottery from Thebes celebrating their variant of the Samothracian mysteries. The meaning of these pots are contestable, but modern research concludes that they may have been used for apotropaic purposes. Therefore illustrating a possible link between blacks and gorgon imagery.

An example of Africans in Greek pottery with apotropaic features.
Thebean cup featuring the Greek gods Hera, Aphrodite, Hermes (Paris?) as Africans. The fact that Hera is looking at the viewer suggests an apotrpaic element.


Only Your Donations keep this Art Alive

Do you have any idea how long it took me to come up with that?

Source Wayne (foreground) and me,

Over two years!

I claim the coinage of the phrase“Only Your Donations keep this Art Alive” Yep, it was me. It has become a modern slogan used by many other buskers and street artists, akin to “All my own Work” (a traditional slogan from the 1800’s). It is not unusual to see ‘only your donations’ or some variant on the streets, it’s even been used in other languages!

Variant in French by my dear friend, Francois Pelletier.

I don’t get annoyed at people using a variant, but it does shit me if folk copy it in the exact same format, text, lettering and even height of lettering!!! (I’m a trained graphic designer, for fucks sake, I *know* when you are copying me.)

Otherwise, go nuts.😀

What I love about this phrase and why I religiously repeat it over and over again is because it is truth. Only your donations keep this art alive is a literal truth. I’m not fucking bullshitting, I’m not pulling this out of my arse. The art presented to you would not exist without your support. You are enabling art to be freely giving. You are as vital and important as the artist.
To which I can only bow. It’s your power that make me who I am and I am eternally grateful.

Donatings can be sent via paypal: markos.gage@gmail.com

Logo design

I’m currently offering my services for logo design. Basic black and white designs start at $250 USD. The process allows for a max of three proposed drafts and one final product. Clients are informed throughout the whole design process and may give input and feedback for alterations.

Logos may be used for personal or business, they are great for website headers, letter heads, business logos etc.

I’d prefer to work within the polytheist / pagan community and to maintain some theme related to that. I also reserve the right to deny commission requests.

Contact me at markos.gage@gmail.com for more info.


Starry Bull Logo
Dionysos and Ariadne. (This design was used on the End to End book cover)
The sacred Toy of Dionysos the Trochos (Personal symbol)
Apotropaic Dionysos


You may have noticed I have republished some choice articles I wrote for the Thiasos of the Starry Bull. These are some of my favourites, there are others on the old blog that I like but am happy to let them archive.

I do not know the specifics, but there is a rumbling coming from the Starry Bull so keep an eye out.

Sannion is also requesting submissions, hymns and resources, for Starry Bull deities.


(This article was originally published for The Thiasos of the Starry Bull, on The Boukoleon, 4/9/14)


Thanks to a couple thousand years of aggressive monotheistic faiths, Dionysus has been plenty demonised. As Sannion points out here (dead link), he is often shown as being hedonist, evil, chaotic, drunk, excessive and fat in popular culture. This identity is by no means diminishing either. I have personally been attacked by members of the public for depicting Dionysus in art, even had people attempt to destroy our artwork and threaten to assault us because of our ‘satanic pictures’. However this is not solely a Christian thing, even some pagans deny Dionysus respect.

The fact that Dionysus is attributed to wine is often the cause of these allegations. Wine and alcohol is seen as a recreational drug, associated with Saturday night binge drinking and waking up in the morning with a terrible headache and embarrassing facebook comments or worst photos. But what did wine mean to the ancients? Of all things why did they have a god of wine?

We are in an age of decadence, if we want something all we have to do is go to the supermarket. Even free clean water can be found in most cities via drinking taps. We wash ourselves with clean water, we even dispose of our waste with drinkable water. In most western countries it is there for our use. However in ancient times it was not and the water that was available was often polluted or infected with parasites.

The production of wine begun with the rise of civilisation around 7,000 years ago with some of the oldest industrial sites ever discovered found in the middle east dating to around 4,100 BC, (the Areni-1 winery, discovered in 2007.) Wine was necessary for urban civilisation as it enabled large quantities of people to survive in a polluted environment. It made water safe to drink. Being a social drug it also brought the communities together. Apart from drinking in groups, wine would have been made in groups. In Greece there were community ceremonies and festivals to celebrate the different stages of wine production with each festival usually coinciding with different seasonal changes. So wine not only helped keep the population healthy but also brought it together as a community. In relation to Dionysian cults, wine and mead were more than likely used for ecstatic spiritual purposes – these cults transcended the community celebration as it brought people closer to god through mysteries and initiation.


Then there is trade. Has anyone ever wondered why Dionysus is often depicted on a ship? Apart from the myth of the Tyrrhenian pirates, Dionysus was depicted in ancient festivals on a ship that was wheeled through Athens. He also has strong ties with the sea, using it as a refuge in the myth of Lykourgos. Wine was a commodity and encouraged trade, it unified nations to cooperate and allowed growth in wealth and also health. Greece being a naval nation, wine was transported via ships. Apart from trade however, wine also enabled sailors to travel further distances without water supplies going off. Wine was a means of hydration in the hot sun of the Aegean.

Also another note: scurvy was a documented disease by Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC). It is caused by a lack of vitamin C. A disease that was cured in ancient times by the Greeks by using, among other things, wine. The cure of scurvy was lost to more contemporary explorers like the English and Spanish and it caused devastating impediments in their exploration of new lands. Wine drunk by sailors in classical times prevented this and again allowed greater time spent on the seas.

While I’m certain that ancient people enjoyed alcohol as much as we do today, wine was far more than getting drunk and making a fool of oneself at the end of the week. It was a substance that allowed us to grow and develop throughout the world. It brought friendships together, increased wealth and living standards, encouraged industrialism, trade and alliances. Even classical philosophers praise it for allowing them to think freely. It is a sacred liquid that connects us with ourselves, nature and the divine with Dionysus ruling over its holy epiphanies. Like Dionysus, wine should not be abused, it is the cup of life and the cup of death, but we should not never forgot or dismiss it’s sacredness.


(This article was originally published for The Thiasos of the Starry Bull, on The Boukoleon, 27/10/14)

Mercury By Antonello Venditti

I live my life by Hermes. For the past six years every dollar I have ever earned has been given to me as donation by strangers. Most often it’s the only interaction I have with these people, they like what I do and they give me money to keep doing it. It’s such a beautiful relationship. As well as how I earn my money I follow the coin, when there is a difficult decision I flip a coin. Many friends have criticise me for doing this, they say I shouldn’t live by chance, but I’ve never found myself in a unfortunate position.
Hermes was one of two gods that introduced themselves to me in dream when I was a teenager before setting out in Hellenic Polytheism . Our relationship goes way back, he is also the first god I ever depicted in art and still use my first ever bronze statue I made on my shrine. Like many gods in the Pantheon he is extremely complex, the divine guide, the trickster, the translator, the trader, lord of logos and magic.

For myself I view Hermes as the spiritual and physical lubricant of this world. The force that transmits all motion to it required destination. He conducts our thoughts, our voices, dictates over what words we wish to express ourselves when writing. While not necessarily the muse, he is the transmitter of the muse, in this manner he is aware of many things. He is the spy, the retainer to the gods, he knows all their secrets but is bound by the highest oath to keep them.

The cult of Hermes could be perhaps the oldest we know of, it may go back to prehistoric times. It’s possible that it started as a cairn building tradition, where travellers would set up stone piles along their way to mark their destination, to inform others of their path or simply as a sign to prevent themselves from getting lost. Cairn building was also used to mark a burial site as a way of honouring those lost along the path, thereby perhaps developing the chthonic aspect of Hermes. As time went on these ‘headstones’ became more elaborate and included pillar with a head of bearded man with a phallus, sometimes accompanied with text, such as directions. Herms had many purposes, they proved to lost travellers that civilisation was near, they gave protection and comfort knowing that a god was watching while they camped on the road and they were used as a conduit for other gods. Travellers brought their gods with them and a herm was a ‘spiritual actor’ a permanent generic way-shrine that could be used to honour other deities. For example: Bacchic cults would use these herms as a means of honouring Dionysus, maenads would adorn one with a mask and dress it as the god, in this manner the herm would become Dionysus. When the troop had finished their festival they would ceremoniously dismantle the sacred mask and cloths from the herm and therefore, kill Dionysus – to much lamenting. However the herm would be restored to its original state until the next year when Dionysus was reborn again. In this manner the herm would become the physical orator, actor, the pillar that upholds the gods.
Greece itself was a ‘meeting ground’ of different cultural influences, in essence it was a place where people exchanged their knowledge. Like most developing cults in the region the cult of Hermes was influenced by outsiders, travellers and merchants. These people would associate their homeland gods with local Greek gods, we see Hermes becoming connected with Thoth in Egypt, who is the divine scribe, master of words and magic. With this association Hermes became further entrenched in the sacred mysteries as god over words and guide of the souls of the dead.

In myth Hermes is usually born on mount Kyllini, his father is Zeus and mother a nymph named Maia. In the humorous Homeric hymn he is depicted as a babe escaping his crib and going about the country side causing mischief, along the way creating many things of ingenuity such as sandals and the lyre. He steals the sacred cattle of Apollo and establishes his own form of sacrifice (animal sacrifice) via creating fire, but is caught out by his brother Apollo. (I think this is the only time where a fart joke is inserted in a Homeric Hymn?) Disgusted by Hermes and unable to convince the truth from him, Apollo takes him to Olympus to be judged before their father. Zeus however is charmed by his mischievous, master of lies, son and orders the two to make amends: Hermes gifts Apollo his lyre and Apollo gifts Hermes some of his prophetic attributes and his heraldic staff, thereafter Hermes becomes an Olympian and friends with Apollo.

Hermes carrying infant Dionysus Attributed to Praxiteles

In other myth Hermes is the trusted servant to Zeus. He is also charged with protecting Zeus’ offspring. A famous statue attributed to Praxiteles is Hermes carrying the babe Dionysus. Illustrating the scene where Hermes delivers the infant Dionysus to the protection of his nurses and foster father Seilenos. This theme is a popular subject in both sculpture and pottery. As a loyal servant Hermes is often pitted against the machinations of Hera, the most famous is the killing of Argos, a hundred eyed giant sent to guard Io as a cow. (Io being Dionysus’ great-great-great-great-great grandmother or something…) So in some way Hermes has been a protector and guide to Dionysus’ family lineage for a long time.

There are two Orphic hymns to Hermes. In what is typical of Orphism: Hermes has two different parentages depending on his attributes. One where he is addressed as the son of Zeus and Maia and the other focused on the Chthonic Hermes where he is the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite.

Well that should sum up some key basics in regards to Hermes. Feel free to contribute in the comments. Here are three different translations of the Orphic Hymns for convenience:

Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)

“To Hermes, Fumigation from Frankincense. Hermes, draw near, and to my prayer incline, messenger of Zeus, and Maia’s son divine; prefect of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind. Celestial messenger of various skill, whose powerful arts could watchful Argos kill. With winged feet ’tis thine through air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse; great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine. With power endued all language to explain, of care the loosener, and the source of gain. Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Korykion (Corycion), blessed, profitable God. Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortal kind. Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear; assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and memory’s increase.”

Orphic Hymn 57 to Chthonian Hermes

“To Hermes Khthonios (Chthonian, of the Underworld), Fumigation from Storax. Hermes, I call, whom fate decrees to dwell near to Kokytos, the famed stream of Haides, and in necessity’s (Ananke’s) dread path, whose bourn to none that reach it ever permits return. O Bakkheios (Bacchian) Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine, and of celestial Aphrodite, Paphian queen, dark-eyelashed Goddess, of a lovely mien: who constant wanderest through the sacred seats where Haides’ dread empress, Persephone, retreats; to wretched souls the leader of the way, when fate decrees, to regions void of day. Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumberous rest the weary eye; for Persephone, through Tartaros dark and wide, gave thee for ever flowing souls to guide. Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend, and grant thy mystics’ works a happy end.”

Alternative translations:


Angel of Zeus,
son of Maia,
you judge
every competition.

Good shepherd,
priest and sage,
celestial messenger
of a thousand techniques,

you lulled and slayed
hundred eyed Argos
to give the peacock
gorgeous feathers.

Gracious prophet,
guide and guardian,
you love gymnastics,
secrets and tricks.

Giver of good things,
ready helper,
your gifts are
casually found treasures.

You give gain,
honest or dishonest.
Doorways, roads
and borders amuse you.

Wings on your feet
you soar through space
singing all music
in every language.

With a touch
of your wand
you bring sleep,
a dream or demise.

We honor you, Hermes,
help us in our work.
Give us eloquent speech
and eager virility.

Give us our necessities
and sharp memory.
Give us good luck.
Close our lives in peace.

Hermes Psychopomp

Servant of the Moirai,
guide us on the path
to the other world.

Son of Dionysos
and Aphrodite,
guide us to Persephone.

You lead the wretched,
sodden with mud,
into long rest in the dark.

A touch of your wand
brings sleep
or wakes the deceased.

Guide of souls
forever flowing
to the other side,

we honor you
guide us.

Orphic Hymn 28. To Hermes
Incense: Frankincense

Hear me, Hermes, messenger of Zeus, son of Maia.
Almighty is your heart, O lord of the deceased and judge of contests.
Gentle and clever, O Argeiphontes, you are a guide whose sandals fly,
And a man-loving prophet to mortals.
You are vigorous and you delight in exercise and in deceit.
Interpreter of all, you are a profiteer who frees us of cares,
And who holds in his hands the blameless tool of peace.
Lord of Korykos, blessed,
helpful and skilled in words, you assist in work,
You are a friend of mortals in need,
And you wield the dreaded and respected weapon of speech.
Hear my prayer and grant a good end to a life of industry,
gracious talk and mindfulness.

Orphic Hymn 57. To Chthonic Hermes
Incense: Storax

You dwell in the compelling road of no return, by the Kytos.
You guide the souls of mortals to the nether gloom.
Hermes, off-spring of Dionysos who revels in dance,
And Aphrodite, the Paphian maiden of the fluttering eyelids,
You frequent the sacred house of Persephone,
As guide throughout the earth of ill-fated souls,
Which you bring to their haven when their time has come,
Charming them with your sacred wand and giving them sleep,
From which you rouse them again.
To you indeed Persephone gave the office, throughout wide Tartaros,
To lead the way for the eternal souls of men.
But, O blessed one, grant a good end for the initiate’s work.


Mercury About to Behead Argus By Ubaldo Gandolfi

The Starry Bull

(This article was originally published for The Thiasos of the Starry Bull, on The Boukoleon, 1/4/15)


There is a story within all mankind, a story that is not myth, nor fiction, it is part of our psyche, it contributes to our creation and drive: it’s the tale of survival.

Your attention is caught by the cracking of wood and earth. A stampeding beast, a massive blur strewn with blood and gore, heckled with arrows and spears. It’s horns shrouded in a net that veils it’s rage filled eyes.  A wild bull blazing over trees and scrub while a pack of hounds nip at its hooves only to be repelled by a kick. For a moment the bull stands in place rocking back and forth with its horned head arching up sending a dog flying over the breath of its back, until out of desperation the bull leaps into a nearby river.

Through the struggling moans of the drowning bull and the lamenting barks of the hounds is the incoherent but equally wild yells of men. Armed with net and spear they come to the river bank and in a starving frenzy they throw their weapons at the drowning beast. Blood mixes with water and in that second before death the hunters eyes meet with the hunted. Time stops as they are connected in the same act forever, interchanging in roles, hunted and hunter, hunter and hunted.

Death is seen by the killer and the victim.

The hunters return to their village with their prize and find their starving women and children. Despite hunger, the whole tribe leaps up in celebration at the hunters return greeting them with praise and merriment, the hunters are heroes. They all prepare a great feast and eat the flesh of their kill, they all experience euphoria as they become one with their prey.

Afterwards while relaxing by the fire, the sun dies and the stars become visible and in those blazing dots they see the day’s events unfold again. The hunters name the stars and retell of their exploits, of killed dogs, the river and the bull. A narrative develops, the elements become characters and locations.

The hounds become fourteen victims doomed to the minotaur, the river becomes the labyrinth, the hunters become Theseus.

Through the flesh of the bull the hunters grow old, unable to keep providing for the tribe themselves they show others.  They become the story tellers, the masters of the mysteries and through rites of death and rebirth they teach the youth the holy tales and initiate them into adulthood.

Over generations these hunters learn to grow food, they see the same process of death and rebirth in the seasons, in the day and night, in the earth, in the very plants they grow and in themselves. The tale of eternal life that differs each time its told.

Sometimes the hunter is a lover who lost his love and confronts death itself to find her again. Sometimes the bull is a god-child and the hunters are titans. Other times the hunter is the god of the underworld who steals the goddess of spring which brings winter.

It’s always a different tale, but no matter the telling the themes are always the same. Something is lost, something is gained / something is killed, something is reborn. At the centre of this tale are two opposing forces, hunter and hunted, both one and the same, always one destroying the other in order to become the survivor. Be it: the crushing of grapes to ferment wine, the burial of seeds to spout as plants, cutting and gathering of the harvest, the grinding of grain to make flour, the marriage of husband and wife, the loss of virginity to give birth, the coming to age, initiation into the mysteries, the killing of the bull.

It’s in these instances we see ourselves and see that we are part of this ongoing narrative, both the antagonist and protagonist of our own tale of survival. The Starry Bull is our antagonist, our direct opposite, as such: it is a god, it is an animal, of the stars and the earth, it is part man – part beast. When we thrust our weapon into it and look at its dying eyes we see the reflection of ourselves and when we consume its flesh we become one with it.

That is the Starry Bull.

Orphic Colours

(This article was originally published for The Thiasos of the Starry Bull, on The Boukoleon, 1/5/15)

Face of the demon Charun, 4th century BCE. (Etruscan)

The Starry Bull maintains and identifies with the Orphic colours white, red and black, when combined together they make the sacred colour named orphninos, ὄρφνῐνος, “dusky dark”. But how did we come to this conclusion and what is their significance to our tradition, what are these colours?

Colour theory has been a major study subject for my entire adult life. By trade I deal with colours every day. I need to know what’s in pigments, how it’s made and how long it will last because walking into this field without knowledge can not only be detrimental to my work, but also to my health*. Given my background and obsession with colour, when I’m presented with these sacred hues I’m quite curious to what they are made of, what colour they actually are and what they mean.

I was first introduced to this colour scheme by Sannion, blog posts. Specifically he turned me on to a passage in the Orphic Argonautika which discussed these colours in the context of Orpheus’ ritual robes and a contemporary Bulgarian healing ritual where the following associations are given: black representing death and the impure, red for human action and white to symbolise heaven and destiny.

In my own studies relating to street performance I’ve noticed these colours popping up in contemporary street shows. The traditions are derived from the modern circus which honours many of the symbols and colours from the Commedia dell’Arte, that in turn followed the customs of the Greek farce and theatre. Throughout the history of theatre these colours have changed in meaning, but I speculate that they were first used on the theatre masks as red, black and white are the most present colours of the simplified face, e.g. like modern mime face paint. So through theatre alone we see the associations with Dionysos.

If we look past the theatre and literature another source of colour associations is pottery, with literally thousands of wine cups, jugs and assorted earthenware decorated with these colours. Ancient Greek artists like Apelles also used a limited palette of these colours with just the addition of yellow ochre.

Dionysus in a ship, 6th century BCE

Many colours we are exposed to on a daily basis are new. Synthesising colours can in fact be traced through alchemical experiments and early chemistry, but mass production of now common colours like blues, reds and yellows has been a result of technological advancement in the last 200 years. In the past, blues and reds were mostly derived from precious stones, rare inks from sea creatures and butterfly wings. The strongest non-earth yellows were created from a laborious process of collecting and drying animal urine. Up until the mid-1800’s artists palettes were dependant on common earth tones, and naturally, in ancient times the most common, strongest and cheap colours were also these same colours. (The only synthetic colour ancient people had access too was Egyptian Blue, but the secret of making this colour was lost by the Roman period.)

If we consider the limitations of the ancients we can easily guess what red, black and whites were used and when we consider where each of these colours are derived one could point out that they directly correspond with Bacchic ritual sacrifice. So I propose that the actual Orphic colours are red ochre, ivory black and chalk white. By knowing this information we can closely reproduce the colour orphninos.

Red Ochre


All earth based pigments are derived from iron oxide (rust) this includes red sienna, yellow ochre, red ochre, brown umber, mars black and mars red, etc. The variation in colour is a result of exposure of certain other elements and conditions over millions of years or made in laboratories (mars colours). Red ochre is the most common of reds and the basis of soil on earth. It’s also a near colour of dried blood and made up of similar properties, no doubt the Orphics would have noticed the comparison between blood and the pigment, after all, when found naturally with chalk deposits it is called sanguine red.

Ivory Black


When bone is burnt it becomes a distinctive dark grey – near black, aptly named Ivory Black. This colour is the closest we get to literally being derived from ritual sacrifice. What’s more, there is a magical quality of the white bone becoming one of the darkest natural blacks. This is why I believe the Orphic black is Ivory black.

Another potential and apt black is vine black which is made from stripped grapevines, in hue it is similar to Ivory black but sometimes has a cooler greenness.

The last common darkest black used by the ancients is lamp black, which requires a much more intensive process of burning oil and collecting the soot off a copper utensil, the process just seems to intrusive compared to the inherent nature of burning bone or vine as an offering to the gods.

Black is important to note because there is no true black in nature, black is just a dark colour usually of blue, green or red. When tinted with other colours it affects the overall colour of orphninos.

Chalk White


We know from numerous accounts of ritual and theatre that chalk white was used to cover faces as masks. It holds a sacred significance in Orphic belief from the story of the death of Zagreus Dionysos, where the Titans used it to hide their features from the god child. Chalk is calcium carbonate which is petrified bone and shell that has gone through a compositionally changed process over millions of years. Like red ochre it is a common earth element that has been used extensively in ancient times until now. In Greece today houses and roads are still painted in chalk.

Chalk white is not an opaque white which means when exposed to water it becomes translucent and is a suitable filler and binder for other pigments. Therefore if it was mixed with ivory black and red ochre to make orphninos it would have only a slight effect on the overall hue, but as a binder it would develop into a paste and give the other pigments greater adhesive integrity. The hue would dry lighter than the paint and result in a uniformed matt finish.

The only alternative white that is opaque is flake white (lead white) which was used by the Romans in cosmetics. But all accounts specifically state that the white used in ritual is chalk.


So what is the colour of the “dusky dark” orphninos? Here’s the thing with colour theory, in ideal colour theory orphninos is a shaded red that has had its value saturated or desaturated by black and white. It’s always red, as it’s the only colour on the palette.

In reality however chalk white and ivory black are colours and retain elements of that colour. For example: you can make green out of yellow ochre and black, a grey blue out of black and white. The colour value of ivory black maintains elements of blue or green and when mixed with red ochre it produces a muddy, warm grey purple. The tonal value of this grey can be manipulated by chalk.

If another black is used, ie. Vine black this will affect the colour of orphninos.

Below are examples of what it may appear as.

Ideal colour**, Proposed orphninos with ivory black, far right which is a shade of pseudo ivory black (warm blue grey) and red ochre combined.


Ideal colour, Proposed orphninos with vine black, far right which is a shade of pseudo vine black (cool green grey) and red ochre combined.


For comparison, below is a digital spectrum colour test. Note the last colour on the right is a shade of spectrum red, it’s identical to the red in the centre but the value has been changed by the pure black and white.

Pigment colour test.



The warm grey area is what I propose is orphninos. The saturation value of this colour is changed by the addition of chalk.



* Why I need to know about pigments:
1 Even with laws preventing paints being made by toxic heavy metals like lead, there are still colours that are derived from toxic materials. Most of these colours are benign to handle and touch, however their toxic properties can be activated when combined with other chemicals. (e.g. fast drying mediums, alkyd resins.)
2 The best professional grade art materials still have issues with light fastness. This means they are very susceptible to UV / sunlight and fade.
3 Some pigments are made out of compositionally opposite materials and do not mix well with other pigments. Resulting in muddy uncontrolled colours.
4 Art suppliers rip off artists and sell the same colours as a another colour with added white. Essentially diluted colours are pitched as different colours. You only know this if you know and check the pigment numbers of paints.

**Digital colour test info:

Colour samples sourced from a paint manufacture hex no. comparison catalogue. Colours vary by manufacture. I chose the hues from the list and judged by my own knowledge of colours. The actual blacks in reality appear quite dark. An untrained eye would not know the difference between the blacks, but the hex is the colour translated through a computer and outputted by a light based screen, stripping away the darkness.

Melbourne’s Street Arts Under Attack

(Image source, Herald Sun – 2016)

Want to support Melbourne’s street art? Please sign the petitions: here and here.

The city of Melbourne is regarded as the artistic capital of Australia. It has a long and glorious history celebrating the arts and is likewise home to many artists. The city and its citizens are known for being liberal, coffee drinking bohemians in a cityscape that would be fitting for Europe with it’s eclectic mix of neo-classical, Victorian and modern architecture. The laid back attitude of the inhabitants coupled with festivities and culture have marked out the city as the most liveable city in the world for many years. (1) Art quite literally spills out into the streets via local and international buskers performing daily to an appreciative and generous public. The support and love of street art in Melbourne has made it an internationally renowned city of street art. (2)

Unfortunately things are changing. In the last twelve months there has been a dramatic rise in homelessness, (3) with art being pushed aside for tents and bedding on the main streets. Likewise the associated filth from people living on the streets such as bodily waste, garbage and drug use clutter the iconic bluestone pavers that make the sidewalk.
The city council and state government have invested significant funds into new emergency housing and social services, but until these ventures finalise in the politicking process the issue remains on the street. (4)

To make matters worse the city is currently governed by an out of touch, conservative, mayor who does not hold the same values as the cities citizens. Cr. Robert Doyle was elected in 2008, literally within minutes of his win he vouched for cleaning up the streets, attacking buskers whom he equated to ‘bogans’, a slang term for an uncultured Australian.  (5)

Since then Melbourne’s buskers have been facing troubles from the once supportive council by the cities by-laws officers that bully and hand out hefty fines for minor infractions, tightening of the confusing, contrary and legally questionable busking regulations and also the once free busking permits now have fees. Finally last week the council announced a ban of amplification on the main street of Melbourne, (6) effectively destroying the livelihood of artists and bringing an end to Melbourne’s international busking reputation.

This ban is being proposed as a trial but as these things work out it will most likely become permanent. The council is citing 264 complaints being made about loud buskers, but sometimes fail to state that these complaints were made over a three and a half year time period. Likewise they fail to state if the complaints are from repeat complainers and also if the complaints are city wide. The council is refusing to acknowledge that while there are complaints there are countless compliments to buskers by the public via donations given to buskers. Similarly the council is refusing to acknowledge the academic research (7, 8) that supports buskers place within the cultural and social landscape and that it has been determined that buskers reduce crime in the area they play and generate a safe atmosphere – something that should be encouraged during this homeless crisis.

Instead Cr. Robert Doyle has taken to right-wing media outlets to vent his personal hatred against buskers and art. Putting an undue negative emphasis on buskers at a time when he has no power to deal with the increasing homeless issue, while also heading to election in October 2016. It is painfully obvious that he is attempting to scapegoat buskers to give the public an impression that he is ‘cleaning up the streets’ meanwhile attacking the artistic foundations and cultural heritage that make this city the best in the world.

Want to support Melbourne’s street art?

Please sign the petitions: here and here.

There is a protest to be held on the 12pm 20th of July 2016 at the town hall: https://www.facebook.com/events/1628420710819829/

Citations & Notes:

1 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/melbourne-named-worlds-most-liveable-city-for-fifth-year-running-20150818-gj1he8.html

2 http://www.stencilgraffiticapital.com/

3 & 4 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-homelessness-crisis-gripping-melbourne-20160715-gq6yog.html


5 http://www.smh.com.au/national/badly-talented-buskers-on-doyles-hit-list-20081130-6o31.html

6 http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/483469/melbourne-city-bans-buskers-after-noise-irritates-lord-mayor.htm

7 & 8

Susie J. Tanenbaum, Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subway of New York

Below is new study of busking regulations in Melbourne and Sydney by Julia Quilter and Luke McNamara of the University of Melbourne. It studies the history and current legal status of laws being use by the CoM to regulate busking. The conclusion of the review is positive, but it also highlights the legal ‘greyness’ of the laws being used to enforce the permit system and this recent banning on Swanston Street.


Companion article that summarises the above findings:



The Foreskin


As previously mentioned, I’ve been helping with a street art project of Phanes called “The Epiphany of Phanes”, designed by my partner Wayne McMillan (The prayer card is now for sale here). Apart from the public’s expected reaction to a large image of a naked intersexed deity, others have unexpectedly responded to the fact that we have depicted Phanes with an un-mutilated penis.

Although I do have a personal abhorrence to circumcision there is another reason why Phanes and all other depictions of Greek gods are ‘uncut’ in our images.

We loosely follow classical aesthetics and in these ideals, depictions of a penis must maintain the foreskin.

Ancient Greeks were like the opposite of Jews when it comes to penises. They admired the foreskin and believed the length (of the foreskin) represented beauty and modesty. This may be hard for us to grasp nowadays, but when men would go around naked they were not technically naked as long as the head of the penis was not exposed. If however the foreskin was rolled back with the glans exposed they would be naked and were therefore obscene.

To prevent “wardrobe malfunctions” athletes would temporarily perform infibulation with the use of a kynodesme (dog tie), a tie around the foreskin that would allow the penis be connected around the waist or curled up. This would allow them to wrestle and run around without having to worry about their lipstick unexpectedly popping out.

The practice, and even surgical infibulation, was also used by poets and politicians to demonstrate their piety and noble moral standing (which is known as kalokagathia).

The Greek poet Anacreon (source)

As well as modesty, Greeks despised mutilation of the body, the ideal body should be completely intact therefore circumcision was considered barbaric, foreign and often associated with slaves.

There are examples of the penal glans being exposed in art. This is either for fun, a joke, or was involved in religious symbolism – or both. Satyrs and satyr plays feature large penises with exposed glans, this illustrates their shameless and fertile aspects as nature spirits. Likewise phalli of other fertility gods and phalluses used in procession also have exposed glans for the same reason to represent propagation.  So if we were depicting that aspect of a god it would be acceptable.

Otherwise to depict a deity with a circumcised penis or with exposed glans would be traditionally breaking classical aesthetics, which may be regarded as obscene and offensive.

Pottery like this had religious meaning, but were also novelty pieces for fun. Notice the satyrs standing have infibulated penises, while the central satyr holding up the cup with his member has exposed glans.


Phallic procession of Dionysos hosted by Labrys, copyright Labrys 2016. http://www.labrys.gr/

Galina Krasskova recently published a great article outlining the issues faced by polytheists in an interfaith environment.

And today I woke up to this blog post from the Universal Life Church Monastery, an interfaith church that offers free ordaining to members and supposedly recognises all religions with its two tenets being:

– Do only that which is right.

– Every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws.

Reading the post one gets the impression that Hellenic Polythiesm is a “new trend”, (the post actually asks this of readers), it also highlights an act of crime which Hellenic Polytheists are blamed for without proof.

The crime occurred last month (June 2016) at the Church of Zoodochou Pigis in Iraklio, Crete. Where 13 sacred icons were defaced with faeces. The vandal wrote “This one’s courtesy of Zeus,” on the wall. It was reported in the Greek Reporter by Philip Chrysopoulos* under the title “More Greeks Turn to Worship of Ancient Gods” designed to give an impression that it is reporting Hellenic Polytheism but it actually tilted against it. This report has thus been covered by other the Christian Times and the Universal Life Church Monastery.

Apart from the graffiti on the wall there is no proof that this crime was committed by any Hellenic Polytheist, or by members of Labyrs or YSEE.

So what we see here is a prime example of what Krasskova is discussing in her article. How the interfaith community simply will not accommodate polytheism. What’s more, it actively derides it and supports monotheism.


I left a comment on the Universal Life Church Monastery blog post (appears it was not approved and was deleted, *update: it has been since writing.):

“1. Hellenic Polytheism isn’t new, at least not as the article states. We had people returning to paganism in the 19th century (some Greeks claim that it never died out), in the 1970’s groups started forming with more intent towards traditional devotion, instead of the ideals of Neo-paganism and Wicca, these groups started publishing newsletters, magazines and books. In the 1990’s the internet helped spread it more. Modern Hellenic polytheism is international too, there are large groups in the US, Europe (outside of Greece), followers (like myself) in Australia and elsewhere. It’s not a fad.
2. The only other source I’ve found of the faeces on the icon is from a Greek right wing orthodox reporter. Neither Labyrs or YSEE has claimed responsibility for it. Basically there is no proof that it was done by anyone who is related to the wider Hellenic polytheist community in Greece – for all we know it was some kids. This crime is being used as a smear tactic against Hellenic polytheists, who ideally wouldn’t commit such acts because their faith has taboos against uncleanliness.
3. There has been indeed religious intolerance, but those acts are from Orthodox Christians, including firebombing a book store, the patriarch publicly declaring Hellenics insane, the government refusing to allow public worship in sacred sites and denying petitions to EU which allows religious freedoms.

In conclusion if you want to report this growing and developed religion get your facts straight, interview the other side instead of using it as a platform to continue misinfo and hate.”


*(I’ve been informed from a Greek national that Chrysopoulos is known for his opinionated pieces with right wing and orthodox Christian leaning.)