Monthly Archives: August 2022

Genocide of a tribe complete in Brazil

I was just sent this article by a friend and colleague. The last surviving member of an indigenous community in Brazil has been found dead (atm it seems to be from natural causes). I am shocked this hasn’t received more attention.

The article says that, “The man — whose real name was never known to the outside world — was found in a hammock in a hut in the Tanaru Indigenous territory in Rondonia state on the border with Bolivia on August 23, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) said in a statement. He had been living in complete isolation for 26 years.” The tribe lived surrounded by ranchers and were under constant threat from illegal miners and loggers. The article further notes that, “the majority of the tribe had been killed in the 1970s when ranchers moved into the area, cutting down the forest and attacking the inhabitants.” Nothing was done to stop them.

The name of the man, the last of his people, is not known. May he be met with joy by his ancestors. May they sing his name before his Gods. May he eat honey out of their hands. May he and his people be remembered.

Sometimes it is unclear where the myth ends and the allegory begins

Sannion is so, so, so incredibly right when he writes in the comments here:

“Well, people tend to get out of the myths and their associated literature proportionate to what they bring to their reading of the material. So someone who is patient, studious, reflective, and respectful will discover the deepest of mysteries there as the ancient commentators so often did – but those who are superficial, mocking, dismissive and quick to find faults perceive only empty burlesques as moderns so often do. It’s not that the content miraculously changes, just that one set of readers lacks the capacity to perceive anything of true and lasting value in the material because they don’t have it in themselves to see or properly understand what lies so evidently before their eyes.”

The House of Vines

Sometimes it is unclear where the myth ends and the allegory begins, and this is because to the Neoplatonists there is no distinction: it is not that Zeus represents the Demiurge, but that Zeus is the Demiurge. In this way, the Neoplatonic worldview is quite different from that of modern scholars who tend to separate myth from interpretation, ritual from philosophy; but the fact that the ancients do not separate these is the very key to understanding the Neoplatonic universe. (Dwayne Meisner, Zeus the Head Zeus the Middle- Studies in the Orphic Theogonies)

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There’s always *more* to give

A beautiful and inspiring post from Dver, reminding us that there’s always more to give. As someone who just hit the half century mark, I also feel a renewal of my practice, of my relationship with Odin and my other Gods and it’s humbling and intensely dear to my heart how long a journey it has been, how often it has hit very twisting and strange roads, and how there is still so much more to do and see, to offer and pray. Thank you, Dver, for this welcome reminder.

A Forest Door

I recently marked the 25 year anniversary of my first religious ecstatic state. This was in the early days of my polytheist practice (when I was still calling myself Wiccan, because I didn’t know there was an alternative), although I already had an inkling that paganism was going to be very important to me. But that night was a turning point, and since then, devotional practice and spirit-work have been my raison d’être.

And yet. It has also been a gradual process of dedication – for while early on I considered myself homo religiosis (as an old friend used to call it), and had the intention to completely give over my life to the service of the gods and spirits, what that looked like in practice has drastically evolved in the years since. It takes a long time to detach the claws of modern Western culture and mindset, for…

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Bookversary – Root, Stone and Bone–Honoring Andvari and the Vaettir of Money

Affiliate Advertising Disclosure

It’s been 14 years since this book, I co-wrote with my adopted mother Fuensanta Arismendi, first released.

Andvari is one of the Duergar, the Dwarves of ancient Germanic cosmology, and a little-known figure in modern Northern Tradition devotional practice. Yet there are a small number of people who have experienced Him as a God of great wisdom, particularly concerning right relationships, right ownership, mindful consumption and proper utilization of resources and finances. In our age of rampant consumerism, where spirituality has become yet another commodity to buy and sell, Andvari’s lessons are needed more than ever. This devotional, the first to honor Him, explores His nature, the ways in which He may be honored, and powerful lessons for developing a honorable relationship with the spirit of money.

Don’t have a copy yet? Get it from amazon, or through bookshop which supports independent booksellers.

Petition · The Statue of the Goddess Hekate Must Remain on Display At the British Museum. · Change.org

Hekate is venerated by so very many Pagans and Polytheists today — this is a petition for Her statue to remain on view at the British Museum after the current exhibition closes (rather than being shoved back into storage). Please consider signing. Thanks to Guason for bringing this to my attention.

The Stone Pillar

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Pain Relieving Dance – Anacreonta 40

(Excerpted from sententiaeantiquae.com’s post here.) 

When Zeus’ child, Bacchus,
That pain-reliever Luaios,
That giver of wine, joins my thoughts
He teaches me how to dance.

τοῦ Διὸς ὁ παῖς ὁ Βάκχος,
ὁ λυσίφρων ὁ Λυαῖος,
ὅταν εἰς φρένας τὰς ἐμὰς
εἰσέλθῃ μεθυδώτας,
διδάσκει με χορεύειν.

satyr

More Musings on Lineage: Emma Livry (1842-1863)

Lineage is a fragile thing. I think about that every time I think about ballet, and I probably learned more about what it takes to maintain and nourish a lineage through having been a dancer than in all the studies and religious work I’ve done since. Lineage is connection, power, tradition, rootedness, identity, culture, and that culture is directed at maintaining and expressing something precious (be it devotion in our case as polytheists, or beauty and art, a different type of devotion, in the case of the dancers I’m discussing here). It is passed through bodies, through the stories, material culture, and lived experience of one generation to the next.  One generation takes the next in hand, carefully forming them, teaching them, helping them, and entrusting to them whatever lineage and tradition it is that one carries. That is a sacred trust, something to be cherished, reverenced, protected. 

In ballet, it’s not just greatness that is shaped this way, but the endurance of specific choreographies, pedagogies, and ballets themselves. One learns directly from those who danced before one. One dancer teaches a particular role to another, or a dancer begins to teach and passes on all he or she has learned to those students seeking to step into the art, and that is how the lineage and tradition survives. It is terrifyingly ephemeral. Break that chain and you can shatter the lineage. 

It is the same with religious traditions, which is why intergenerational passage of knowledge i.e. polytheists raising children as polytheists, cultivating devotion from the womb is so terribly important. We don’t have the societal structure (yet) to support any type of devotion let alone ours, but we can make our households, our homes, our minds, and our hearts living temples to the Gods one by one. We can restore. There’s a line in the Talmud that says that to save a single soul is to save the entire world. I’d like to think that raising up one good polytheist or being one oneself, or leaving behind a body of work to help the next generation, is similarly restorative to our traditions in the world. Anyway, I’m digressing when instead I specifically want to talk about a break in ballet lineage. 

In the mid 19th century, there were two main centers of ballet: France and Italy. Denmark also had a significant school. The Imperial Russian school existed but hadn’t yet come into the fullness of its tradition. That would take thirty plus years of Italian and French dancers and ballet masters working in St. Petersburg and sharing their knowledge, establishing clear lines of pedagogy, and training up several generations of dancers, each better than the last. After 1863 the locus of ballet moved to Italy and then Russia and French ballet fell into … not oblivion but let us say disregard. I’ll explain in a moment. It wasn’t until the Ballet Russe – shaped by French and Italian pedagogy – returned to Paris in the early 20thcentury that French ballet experienced a renaissance. I believe strongly that part of the reason for French ballet losing its place for close to a hundred years was the death of ballerina Emma Livry (and I will caution you before you read further, I’m going to talk about her death, and it was horrific). 

Emma Livry, my collection

In each generation there are dancers who stand out from the rest, the truly great artists and/or pedagogues. The heaviest weight of a tradition rests on their shoulders and they pass it on to their apprentices and students. They infuse the ballet tradition of a particular place with power, life, and vitality and make it shine like the sun in its glory. In the generation before Livry, the key dancers were Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) and Fanny Essler (1810-1884 – Essler actually visited the east coast of the US on one of her many tours! She performed in Baltimore).  There was also Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), Lucille Grahn (1819-1907), and Fanny Cerrito (1817-1909). It’s important to note that many of these women were also noted choreographers, a fact that until recently received very little attention (1). The same can be said for their predecessor Marie Salle (1709-1756). While all of these dancers at some point danced at the Paris Opera Ballet, it was Taglioni who truly reigned in Paris (and I think can probably be counted the greatest of the dancers mentioned here, though she and Essler were rivals on pretty equal terms technique-wise. Their artistic styles were almost diametrically opposed).

Emma Livry was Taglioni’s student and protegee. Before she met Taglioni, she debuted at age sixteen at the Paris Opera ballet in Taglioni’s signature role La Sylphide. When Taglioni saw her dance, she took Livry as a student and eventually choregraphed a ballet named Le Papillon (the butterfly) for the girl. Livry was incredibly talented and a noted sculptor at the time, Jean-Auguste Barre created sculptures of her. She was praised by ballet critics and it was clear, even in her own day, that she was the one destined to inherit the mantle of the French ballet tradition, and in doing so, carry it into the next generation. Sadly, tragically – and I don’t use that word often—that did not happen. 

On November 15, 1862, during a ballet rehearsal, her skirts caught fire. At that time, stages were lit by gaslights, not electricity. There had been fire related deaths before due to this, so dancers had the option of fire-proofing their skirts. Livry, as many dancers, declined because the substance used in fireproofing made the skirts stiff, unpleasant, and more importantly heavy. When she went up in flames, two male dancers rushed to help her, but by the time they were able to put the fire out, she was so burned that the stays of her corset (dancers wore corsets when they danced in the 19th century) had burned/fused into her ribs. Her face and breasts were unburned. Taglioni was present and tried to help her as the girl as well, and it is recorded Livry prayed fervently immediately after the ordeal. She didn’t die immediately but lingered bed-bound for months in an agony it is recorded she bore with piety and stoicism, dying on July 26, 1863. She died of septicemia when her wounds reopened (they never really healed) at the age of twenty. She is buried in Montmartre Cemetery. I knew most of this from my own time in ballet, but here’s the wiki article on her. 

Livry in “La Sylphide,” image from wiki (her arch in that standing foot is stunning)

As a dancer, Livry was particularly noted for her extraordinary ballon: the quality of her jumps, the ability to jump lightly and to seemingly hover in the air. Le Papillon was the only ballet Marie Taglioni ever choreographed.

Here’s the thing: the power of French ballet died with her for decades. It’s a noticeably glaring gap in the history of ballet. Many of the leading pedagogues had moved to St. Petersburg (which led to the glory days of the Imperial ballet there, and the Ballet Russe, which returned and repaid the debt to France generations later). Livry’s death, however, left a lacuna in the mid 19th century that no other French dancer could fill. I’m not the only historian to note this. I can’t recall where I read it, possibly here, but other historians have also pointed out that with Livry’s death, ballet in France went into a serious decline (2). 

I will close by pointing out that the work you do matters. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. It matters even if all you’re doing is choosing to pray or make an offering. In the eyes of our Gods, I do not believe this is insignificant. It is restoration, the whisper of lineage, devotion and in a tiny way, the restoration of our world. Never ever doubt that your lives matter, that the choices you make matter. You may not realize how much at the time.  You don’t have to be a spiritual specialist like a spirit worker or priest for that to be true.  It matters and what you create matters. So, find your devotional voice. Find the medium by which you will bring beauty into the world and throw yourself into it without hesitation. It doesn’t matter if others think it ‘good.’ Pray. Do your devotions. Bring beauty into the world and know that in doing so you are reweaving delicate threads of traditions through which the Gods, I think, are aching to express Themselves. You’re restoring windows to the world through which They can act. May be so always and may you be blessed in the striving.

γινέσθω

Notes: 

  1. Until the past two, maybe three years, there was in ballet circles the mistaken idea that until the 20th century choreographers were male. Even now, it’s still seen as men choreograph, women dance. This is not the case at all though historically. Women, from the earliest significant periods of ballet, like Marie Salle in the 18th century, were choreographers, and noted as such in their heyday. 
  2. The prestige of French ballet began to rise again in the 1920s (after the Ballet Russe re-infused ballet there with vitality). Several noted Imperial ballerinas, most especially Matilda Kchessinska , Olga Preobrajenska, and I believe, Lyubov Egorova began teaching in Paris. Then there was ballerina Yvette Chauvire and Claude Bessy, the latter the youngest child to ever be admitted to the Paris Opera Ballet School, and who later became director of the school. Both of whom helped train the incomparable Sylvie Guillem, and thus the tradition in France was revived, restored, and holds its place today as one of the great schools of modern ballet. 

An Interesting Find for my Ancestor Shrine

So, I’m gallery sitting today (the show ends tomorrow) and right next to the gallery is a book store/antique store. This is my happy place and when I take lunch, I usually go over there for a half hour and browse. Today, I think my military dead were with me because I scored most unexpectedly. 

I’d been in the store last week and this item was not there. Tucked into a corner in the back room was a sword. I like weapons. I have quite a collection of weapons. I studied sword work (Japanese and western fencing though very little of the latter). I had to check this out. No one was there so I unsheathed and studied it. It turned out to be a WWI Italian Cavalry sword. I deal quite a bit veneratively (is that a word? I’m using it anyway regardless) with WWI dead, partly because I have a cousin who went over with Pershing’s forces and didn’t come home. In the part of my shrine given to the military dead, there’s a ton of WWI tokens (I have, for instance, an extensive collection of WWI knives. I’m very tactile and stuff like this really helps me to connected with the dead in question, plus in this case, I like blades). 

Now this is one more addition to the shrine. It’s in excellent condition, has great balance, and feels really nice in the hand. I’ll hang it in that section of the ancestor shrine and call it a day but what a lucky find. Hail to our military dead, to those who suffered and laid down their lives, or suffered and soldiered on so that their children wouldn’t have to (we’re not so good at living up to that sacrifice are we?). 

Here’s a pic of my find. 

My photo, WWI Italian cavalry sword, sitting on a windowsill in Pawling, NY.

The Power of Art

Why do I write about ballet, art, and music so much on a blog dedicated to polytheism/theological topics? Over and above my own involvement in these things, and the relevance of ancestor veneration and lineage ancestor veneration, I write about Art (and here, read this as multivalent: dance, music, writing, poetry, painting, sculpture, pottery, glassblowing, weaving, embroidery, sewing, etc. ALL art) because it is sacred. I write about it because it is a conduit through which the Gods may work. I write about it because bringing Art into the world at any level of competency is a holy thing. It drives back the Unmaker. It reaffirms creation. It aligns us with the Gods who carefully designed and wrought the worlds. It restores and cleanses and preserves the soul from evil. To bring art into the world, to facilitate its expression, to experience it with wonder, to allow it to work its healing is sacred. Not everyone is a priest or spirit-worker, shaman or other specialist. But just as everyone can pray, everyone can experience Art in some way, and doing so heals the soul of pollution and the fury of evil. It’s important, just as remembering and calling to mind our lineage ancestors is important.

It is not a waste of time to look at a painting and ponder it, to dance, however inexpertly, to music you like, to listen to a song, to embroider a pretty design, to make a wobbly pot, to practice an instrument, to muddle out a painting even if you think it sucks. Make art. Craft things. In all ways large and small, make it, inhale it, imbibe it, devour it, bring it into the world, and open space for others to experience it. Allow yourself this gift. It cleanses. It allows the Gods to speak. 

Running with the Apis

Mystery shrouded in story form. I do love our Gods so.

The House of Vines

Marcus Antonius pushed open the door to the Queen’s private chambers, sending the startled ladies in waiting and guards scurrying off. Even had he not been the Queen’s recent husband, they wouldn’t have opposed him: there was a dangerous, mad quality to his disheveled appearance, and Marcus well knew how to use the sword he carried always belted at his hip.

Marcus stumbled in, slammed the large, ornately wrought door closed, and then slumped against it, panting.

Kleopatra glanced up from her work – she was writing a philosophical treatise on the womanly arts of persuasion and cosmetics – and took in his massive frame. Marcus’ hair was in disarray, his ivy-crown hanging in tatters from his dark head. His khiton – no longer a Roman toga – hung loose about his waist, completely exposing his battle-scarred torso. It was torn and stuffed inside his sword-belt to keep it from…

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