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.
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).
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.
Do you have any idea how long it took me to come up with that?
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com for more info.
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)
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.
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.”
Angel of Zeus,
son of Maia,
priest and sage,
of a thousand techniques,
you lulled and slayed
hundred eyed Argos
to give the peacock
guide and guardian,
you love gymnastics,
secrets and tricks.
Giver of good things,
your gifts are
casually found treasures.
You give gain,
honest or dishonest.
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.
Servant of the Moirai,
guide us on the path
to the other world.
Son of Dionysos
guide us to Persephone.
You lead the wretched,
sodden with mud,
into long rest in the dark.
A touch of your wand
or wakes the deceased.
Guide of souls
to the other side,
we honor you
Orphic Hymn 28. To Hermes
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
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.
(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.
(This article was originally published for The Thiasos of the Starry Bull, on The Boukoleon, 1/5/15)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.)
Maybe it’s the political climate right now, but I’ve read a few times and had the question posed to me in person, is Dionysos a god of anarchism? Right off the bat I’m going to say that I don’t profess to be an expert on this political subject, most of what I know about anarchism, socialism, democracy – political theory etc. was taught to me in high school by a wonderful history teacher, who I suspect was an anarchist.
To start, I’ll explain what I think political systems are: they are a constructed system that we silly monkeys have developed in order to live in order. Finding a divine behind these systems can be difficult, but not unheard of. There was a religious component in politics in ancient times and these themes continued until recently (and still do) . However I do not believe that Dionysos can be confined to a particular kind of system. Second, the nature of politics itself is bios, it is temporary and comes and goes in waves. This kind of inconsistency, impermanence does not necessarily fall within the realm of Zoë, an element of indestructiblelife that Dionysos is often associated with. (1)
Now let’s look at anarchism, in general it’s an ideal of a stateless society where people live in cooperative harmony. Within anarchism itself there are different concepts to how this ideal is achieved: Socialist, Green, Marxist etc. I’m going to avoid the different political theories and just focus on the ideal meaning of statelessness.
I’m assuming people associate Dionysos with anarchy for a number of reasons, I’ll address each I mention here: Dionysos’ involvement in regicide. God of liberty and freedom. Breaker of boundaries, including confronting social norms.
Two of the most well-known stories of Dionysos’ wrath involves regicide, first being king Lycurgus of Thrace. There are a couple of reasons why, but whatever the case Lycurgus sort to ban the cult of Dionysos even to the extent of imprisoning the god’s followers and driving Dionysos into the sea. The god eventually sort revenge by making the king mad resulting in his death or Dionysos cursed the land until the kings own subjects killed him.
The second case is Pentheus, this story is complex -nuanced- and depending on how one looks at it, one can consider Dionysos doing Pentheus a favour (2). Like Lycurgus, Pentheus expresses disapproval of the cult of Dionysos. When Dionysos arrives in the city he confronts Pentheus, who assumes the god to be mortal. After a of series back and forth quips where Dionysos tries his best to change the kings mind, Pentheus imprisons him. Naturally the boundless god frees himself and makes the king intoxicated, fools him to venture into the woods to spy upon the Bacchantes, at the roar of Dionysos the mad women find Pentheus, thinking him a lion, and tear him apart.
In both these stories Dionysos is not responding to the status of the kings, nor does he challenge their right to rule. He is challenging their sovereignty over his divinity. The kings are committing hubris against him and enforcing their human rules upon him, a god. In myth there are more instances of Dionysos favouring kings. Also within his major festivals we see sacred kingship, even during times of dictatorship and democracy in Athens. (3) Then there is Dionysos being a choice god to identify with by leaders. Next to Herakles, Dionysos is a very humanistic god and is known to appear in reality, literally. When Dionysos is on stage he is *actually* appearing on stage, when a man dressed as Dionysos leads the parade through the city he is *actually* leading the parade. He is a god of manifestation, of epiphany, a god of coming. Naturally kings also appear as the god. We really need to question why would a king want to appear as an so called anarchistic god? Lastly, Dionysos is a domineering god, which is why he is known to be so vicious towards those that oppose him. He intoxicates us, he is possessive, he dictates a state upon us which is his and only his.
God of liberty and freedom.
Being a non-American I’ve come to laugh at how citizens of that country view liberty and freedom. Watch a Hollywood period film like Braveheart, Alexander the Great, Troy, King Arthur, Gladiator etc. there is always some corny speech spouting about liberty and FREEDOM! This concept, which is totally weird in itself, is foreign and wholly American, originating from the War of Independence against the British. I have no idea why Alexander would be trying to espouse freedom on subjects who were in fact taken over by him and his father… Anyway, freedom in Dionysos’ regard is better seen as freedom of worry, stress. The kind of freedom one experiences from a couple of glasses of wine after a hard day’s work. It’s the freedom to submerge yourself in the fantasy of the theatre, to be entranced in the dance, to be yourself. If we wish to look at Dionysos’ Chthonic nature, it is the freedom found in death. The kind of freedom Dionysos grants is cathartic and healing, if that is related to politics its circumstantial.
Breaker of boundaries.
The cult of Dionysos is one of the few instances where the tightly structured society of Ancient Athens saw a relief from the social conformity expected, transgressing status of gender, social standing, wealth and poverty, even slavery. Women were allowed to venture outside their homes and camp in the wild, slaves changed roles with their masters, public drunkenness was allowed, but all within a limited time frame once per year. Again this is cathartic, the Dionysia was a time where neighbours and friends could shout insults at one another without repercussions, for common folk to mock nobles, a time for *equal* release. Afterwards the women would return home to their children, the men would go to work and the nobles would continue to rule. If this demonstrates an association of anarchism, it’s a very limited one.
Actually one could more soundly argue that if there is a political position Dionysos has it is democracy, the democracy born in the theatre. Theatre was of same measure of sacredness to Dionysos as his more well know attributes of wine and it is in theatre that freedom of speech developed, of public political discussion and political plays. It’s no coincidence that Athens had a theatre going culture alongside the first sparks of democracy. But who was running these performances? Apolitical Dionysian Artists. A holy guild founded to ensure that art and performance was given to the gods, that no social or political situation could prevent the artists from doing their duty. Like the god that comes to all, regardless of their sex or status, the artists were expected to perform for all. There was no room for politics and when exceptions were made it was viewed with suspicion (4).
Overall I would be cautious of applying any human system to Dionysos. He is a god of many things and he grants his blessing to all regardless of how they think or what they believe, a god of true equality, this equality can be seen granted to even his enemies. I can see a Dionysian in an anarchist, and I can see a Dionysian in a fascist, I can see him in Old regime before the French revolution and in the Jacobins during the Reign of Terror. He offers himself to everyone.
1. See: The introduction of Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life by Carl Kerenyi.
2. It can be regarded that Pentheus undergoes an initiation experience and is introduced into the cult and retinue of Dionysos.
3. Anesthesia, eventually this role of sacred king became an honouree position, its origins most likely begun with the formal king (Archon). 4. See: On the False Embassy.
This is one of my all-time favourite depictions of Dionysos I’ve been meaning to do a tracing of it for ages. My source file was… less than ideal and I had to make up a lot. He came out a bit sadder than the original and there are some problems I just noticed. I’ll continue refining him more, but if you like the tracing feel free to download and print for personal use only. If you share it online please give credits and link backs.
Meanwhile while I was working on the tracing Dver called out the appropriation of Dionysian terms and poor “scholarship” of mystery religions and supposed ‘drugs’ used during rituals… I really wish folk would put ergot consumption to the test when they make these idiotic claims.
Anyway, the following comments from a certain someone are funny (on facebook Rhyd went on with: “I -may- be done with American Fundamentalist Polytheism”*, haha), which in turn provoked comments from Sannion to keep the fun and games going.
Oh, and unless my memory is off, I believe Dver has the same image of Dionysos as a tat? Circles.
Another than that I’m going back to work. Have fun!
*dude if you are reading this and want me to stop ‘stalking’ your facebook profile, maybe stop posting everything public?
For the last few weeks my partner, Wayne has been working on a new street art design illustrating the god Phanes (Phanos). It was suggested that we adapt this design into a prayer card to which Galina Krasskova was more than happy to offer her services. Galina’s prayer card project is wonderful for many reasons: foremost it encourages and sponsors images of our gods, second it supports our artists, and third it brings the polytheist community together via fundraising.
The last part I wish to stress, these cards cost money to produce but as a community we can easily reduce these costs down via crowd sourcing. So please take a moment to click the below link and if possible give some cash. There are added perks for sponsoring cards too!
In Australia we don’t have big museums like the British Museum, instead ancient artefacts are found in art galleries. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has some beautiful examples of Greek and Italian marbles, especially a nicely preserved Athlete torso and a beautiful Kore statue (now damaged). They also have an okay collection of Greek pottery and Egyptian pieces including seals, burial objects, statuettes, tools and weapons. The problem with keeping these sacred objects in art galleries is that they are not treated with respect, nor viewed as artefacts, but rather viewed by the modern secular understanding of art.
The NGV is the first major art gallery in Australia and still one of the largest. It’s layout is meant to be designed based on the history of art, the ground floor being ancient art, then each floor continues with subsequent time periods with contemporary art on the top floor.
In the last couple of years the NGV has gone under a ‘business remodelling’ making the gallery more approachable for ‘common people’ and family orientated. The first thing they did was shut down the Egyptian and Greek display areas on the ground floor and convert them into a kids corner! So now in the kids corner are the Egyptian pieces, you literally have a playground decorated by burial objects, no fucking joke.
As for the Greek pieces… they are now scattered all over the gallery, before it was damaged by the mishandling of incompetent staff, the last time I saw the Kore was in the textiles area! It had a fucking blurb stating it was, “a juxtaposition of the advancements of fashion, blah, blah.” Nothing to do with the actual fucking sacredness of the statue, but a secular view solely based on an outward material idea of fashion.
The athlete torso gets moved around a lot, my latest visit found it was in the 1800’s art area next to a Neoclassical work to again illustrate “juxtaposition”.
As for the Greek pottery, they can be found in a corridor leading to the toilets!
Here is the problem with art galleries, gallery curators are trained in art schools, they are essentially failed artists who focus more on art theory rather than art itself. The art theory is a pretty toxic place for history and religion as it falls under the domain of modern art philosophy that views art a secular concept of just objects. They intentionally strip away the context of why the art was actually made and apply a modern context to it which is objectifying i.e., a statue of a god, is just a marble statue. They disregard the holy to claim it for themselves so it “fits” into their understanding of “art history”. This means they intentionally ignore the history and true meaning behind the work – especially if it once held a religious significance.
This is a form of cultural appropriation that is really sickening and something that upsets me so much I often walk out of the NGV shaking in anger.
The fallout of the God’s and Radicals New Right post continues. Here is Rhyd’s rebuttal of critics.
Below is a comment I left explaining my apoliticism. I have discussed this subject many times on this blog and my old one. I thought some people might be interested in it.
I worship and venerate a fascist. You heard me!!! Pentheus is part of a group of heroes I worship. He is a known fascist who defied a god and was punished for it. Now, many people – including Galina at one point – have and do get upset when I mention my Pentheus veneration. But that is because they are looking at The Bacchae from just one side. Of all the family members punished in The Bacchae, Pentheus is the favourite of Dionysos, Dionysos initiates him into his cult, albeit forcefully and in the most horrible way possible. Pentheus experiences the hardship and trials of Dionysos and therefore becomes ‘aware’. After his death Pentheus is of the Blessed Dead. This is evident in pottery painting.
Now, I venerate a known fascist, does that make me one? No because he loses all those concepts upon death. There is a lot to learn from the ancients, which can be applicable to this discussion. Pentheus put politics before the gods and what happened?
I’m critical of putting politics before the gods because of two things, politics is Bios. It is fluxes and changes, comes and goes in waves. Whereas the gods, even after 2000 years of politics attempting to destroy them, have survived – this is Zoe.
My apolitical practice does not just come from this. I am spiritually and physically part of a guild of Dionysian Artists, people who were historically granted liberality to fulfil their devotional duties without bounds, because even the most fascist warlords of ancient Greece respected the gods over their human boarders of land, their human laws upon man and their human ideologies / politics.
The Dionysian Artists had to be apolitical, they performed for democracies they performed for tyrants and warlords. They did it because it was their devotional duty, even if they did disagree with those they performed for.