Category Archives: Bacchic Things

The Bacchae – GO SEE IT. OMG. literally.

If any of you are in the NY area, and interested in things Bacchic, or if you just have an interest in good theatre, for the love of the Gods go and see The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s current production of “The Bacchae.” It’s phenomenal. We just got back from seeing the production. Here is the letter that I wrote to the theatre company. 

“My husband and I attended last night’s performance of the Bacchae and I wanted to reach out to you. It was absolutely fantastic. There is no other way to describe it. I’ve taught the play, read it in the original Greek, written about it, and tried my own hand at translating it (serious kudos to the translator of your version, btw). More to the point, both my husband and I are devotees of Dionysos (He has His worshippers in the modern day), so for us, this is a mystery play, a ritual experience and oh, it was. It really, really was.

Neither of us had ever had the opportunity to see it in person, only on youtube clips. We were excited but approached the performance with some trepidation. It is such a sacred thing for us, what if y’all messed it up? what if you missed the core of the story? What if you portrayed Dionysos wrongly? What if….but almost from the beginning, we knew we were in for something special. By the time the chorus began singing “Go Bacchus, Go Bacchus, Go. Bring Back Dionysos” I was crying.

I”ve known for years that theatre was sacred to Dionysos. It never hit me how and why (and I was a ballet dancer professionally until my early twenties. It *should* have been ingrained in me). I”d just never seen this particular play done, the whole thing a glorious invocation to Him, and oh it makes so much sense now. He was so present throughout. That theatre became a temple.

Mr. Brown did a truly phenomenal job. I was particularly moved by the interactions between him and Mr. Foster…the moments after the latter dons female garb and shows such fragility ‘Can you make me beautiful?’ and Dionysos embraces him and says ‘you are beautiful’ and presses his forehead to that of Pentheus…and there’s such compassion for this broken man, and a chance there for Pentheus to heal and embrace who he truly is, for a different story and yet Pentheus turns away from it and back to hard headed and cruel impiety. It was so clear that when he spoke of wanting to tear the women apart, it was that fragile, fey part of himself that he wanted to truly destroy. It was heart-breaking but so few productions (of the snippets I”ve seen online) capture that.

The militancy of the Bacchantes was really well done and the music…the songs to Dione, to Eirene (“Queen of Heaven”) were beautiful hymns of praise. I really love the way the chorus was handled throughout — and usually I’m dubious about modernizing things, but this worked beautifully (and I especially liked the references to the Hudson and East Rivers instead of the Dirce and Ismene Rivers). it made it strikingly relevant. Opening it by an announcement honoring the Lenape people, the ancestors of those originally indigenous to the land where the theatre stands, slipping in an ‘Ashe’ during one of Dionysos’ monologues were particular touchstones for us. At the end, where Agave raves that she needs no Gods…it was so ugly, so impious, so stubbornly resistant to seeing her own part in all that had unfolded…she had learned nothing and it became obvious where Pentheus and his cousin Actaeon had acquired their foolishness. It really showed how we’re all just one step, one decision away from the road she chose to walk.

Oh thank you for such a powerful performance. That is all I wanted to say. I made a donation when I was there, but my household donates to various places quarterly and now you will be one of those places. It is a fitting offering to Dionysos.

be well,
Galina”

The production runs through July 28. Bring water. Bring bug spray. And bring tissues. 

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Weekend Fun: Ballet and a bit of σπαραγμός to Round Things Out

Royal-Danish-Ballet-rehearses-for-The-Bournonville-Legacy_5_1

Now that my thesis is mostly done (and my defense date scheduled), I decided to take the weekend off. A couple of really awesome opportunities arose that I just couldn’t pass up: Royal Danish Ballet dancers doing a Bournonville retrospective at the Joyce theatre, and Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Bacchae (the latter is free, which is lovely). I saw the ballet last night with a couple of friends and it was utterly delightful.

I’ve always loved the Bournonville style. It emphasizes ballon (the ability of dancers to jump with such ease that it almost seems as though they’re floating in the air), and quick footwork. It is elegant, precise, and this particular style never advocates contorting the body to achieve a higher extension. The emphasis is on artistry not acrobatics and it was a breath of fresh air to see a company that hadn’t given itself over to the colorless, broad blandness that so characterizes so much of modern ballet. It really fed the soul.

The performance opened with an excerpt from La Sylphide. The original version of this ballet was created for Marie Taglioni, a 19thcentury ballerina who pretty much ushered in the era of Romantic ballet ( culminating in ballets like Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty). Bournonville had danced with Taglioni in his youth and wanted to stage the ballet in Denmark. Apparently, he faced so many challenges from the Paris Opera Ballet (where the original had been performed) in doing so that he decided to choreograph his own version and it is this version that survives. It tells the story of James, a man who is engaged to a young woman of his village but who becomes enamored (and obsessed) with a sylph, an otherworldly creature of air and magic. Unfortunately for James, he pissed off the local witch by showing a regrettable lack of hospitality during his engagement party and his obsession with the sylph provides the opportunity for his undoing. He tries to capture this creature, which is rather obscene in and of itself: he’s taking this amazing wild thing and trying to tether it to mundane humanity, and the witch tricks him by providing him with a magic scarf. She tells him that if he wraps it around the sylph’s neck and arms it will enable her to remain with him. What it does is kill her and James is left with nothing, all the more so since his fiancée has long tired of his bullshit and gone off to marry his best friend. Last night’s performance showcased the section of the ballet where James kills the sylph. It is classic Bournonville, but was actually not my favorite part of the evening’s performance.

I much preferred the second half of the show which highlighted excerpts from the ballet Napoli, and other lesser known ballets. It was just delightful and the technique and artistry of the dancers, across the board, was high. It was a satisfying performance, and I particularly loved the rapport between the dancers. This review is correct: they were performing as much for each other, and delightfully, as for the audience. I was particularly impressed with the technique of principal dancer Jon Axel Fransson and soloist Stephanie Chen Gundorph. I have never seen such clean, effortless jumps as Mr. Fransson’s and Gundorph’s footwork was a thing of razor precision and beauty.  I could have happily watched them for hours. Truly though, every dancer there was just amazing, including a performer that I can’t believe is in the corps: Tobias Praetorius. He had such a gift for comedy in his performance as a street singer that I found myself laughing out-loud. I also wish they’d done an encore of the Jockeydance, which was a hilarious variation depicting two jockeys competing to show off their skills. Seriously, all the dancers were quite lovely and if I could, I’d go to every remaining performance.

As a former ballet dancer, I was surprised to note that Bournonville style has preparations for turns in a small second position, not fourth. One of the more surprising elements of the choreography also involved a woman on pointe doing a series of bourrees or similar steps while the man holds onto her shoulder promenading in arabesque or attitude…usually it’s the woman doing that! The female dancers also darn the tips of their pointe shoes. I used to do this, though it’s not that common in American companies. It helps the shoe keep its shape and adds stability to the box. I was happy to see it being done (some of the shoes were signed and on sale so I got a good look at them).

I firmly believe art elevates the soul. It also represents the best that our human cultures have to offer. It crosses all boundaries and unifies like nothing else.  We need more of it!

Tonight, it’s off to see the Bacchae, which for me is a deeply religious experience. I cannot wait to see what the Classical Theatre of Harlem is going to do with the play. It looks amazing. There is a review here.

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(ballet photo couretsy of this site, where you can see more images of the dancers participating in The Bournonville Legacy show at the Joyce).

Seven-Day Prayer Cycle for Pudicitia

Day 1: She Who Preserves

You rise by moonlight, bright and shining,
cover Your head and seek the grace of offerings.
The resources of the home are at Your disposal.
You garb Yourself in respect, modesty, and self-control.
You are mindful of Your position and the obligations therein.
The incense You offer carries Your prayers to the Heavens,
for even the Holy Ones pray for a continuation of goodly order.
The wise wife follows Your example,
inspires the women in her home in piety,
honors her man with her integrity.
She is an adornment to Her home,
wealth beyond measure.
Goodness and bounty flow from her hands.
She restores and holds true to her commitments.
Bless us oh Goddess of chastity,
with the grace of mindfulness,
that we may honor You and the Holy Ones
in all we do.

 

Day 2 : She Who Guards

You are our first line of defense
in guarding our homes, our kin,
the integrity of our very souls.
It begins with the lessons You teach:
mindfulness, modesty,
the careful cultivation of virtue.
Nothing escapes You, oh Vigilant One.
Nothing is too small to warrant Your care.
With Your help, we will drive out pollution.
With Your help, with will remain clean
in our work, our hearts, and most of all
in the hallowed places of our spirits.
With Your help, nothing will shake us
from our reverence.
It begins with You, Pudicitia,
mindfulness in our words, our deeds,
our dress, our conduct, and everything
that we allow into our world, and most of all,
most importantly of all, with everything
we allow to shape our inner world.
With Your guidance, Oh Goddess,
may we make good choices.
Hail to You, Pudicitia,
called Patricia, because Your gifts
ennoble, called Plebeia, because your gifts
are for all.
Hail to You, oh Goddess. Always.

 

Day 4: She Who Inspires All

The ancient Romans knew how important Your blessings were.
They, a people whose history is strewn with inter-class strife
venerated You across those boundaries.
Your blessings were for everyone.
You sustained patrician and plebeian both
and so integral to the holy peace of the Gods were Your gifts,
that women alone tended Your shrines,
because women alone in that time and place
ordered the home passing on Your lessons to their children,
and ensuring each successive generation knew the rightness
of giving You honor.
Our world is very different today,
yet not so different in our need for the knowledge You bear.
Perhaps we need it even more than our ancestors did,
for our world, for all its marvels, is a far uglier and impious place.
Your blessings are there for us too,
if we have the sense our ancestors had,
to seek You out in veneration.
To learn Your lessons well,
and to work hard at maintaining them.
Your most important lesson,
(and one we generally do not like,
though we’d all do best to heed it well),
is that of the rightness of feeling shame
when we have wronged the Gods,
behaved un-virtuously, carelessly,
or when we have been needlessly cruel.
Yours are the gifts that tell us loudly and unswervingly,
when we have crossed a boundary more terrible
with every foolish step.
The pious awareness You grant warns us to reconsider,
and helps ensure that we maintain those sacred habits,
the precious relationships with our Gods and ancestors,
in good and working order.
It is by these things that we too are best sustained.
You give us the strength and the grace
to aid in our own cultivation,
to govern ourselves,
and to develop, if we persevere,
proper and nourishing instincts
toward the holy.
May we persevere,
and Goddess, Who looks wisely
upon Her people, of all classes,
all colors, all ages, all genders,
all everything,
and strives to teach us rightly,
grant that these instincts to piety,
that we should be working so hard to cultivate,
never fall into the mistake of scrupulosity,
anxiety, and fear.
May the habits of goodness You help us to cultivate,
ever be rooted in joy and a deep and abiding sense
of love for the Gods, and the rightness of devotion to Them.
Hail to You, Pudicitia,
may we ever heed Your lessons well.

 

 

Day 5: She Who Sustains the Heart
(by G. Krasskova & T. Vitta)

Great and Gracious Goddess,
this is my prayer to You today.
I come to You with humble heart
and in devotion.
Teach me to honor myself,
so that I may go into relationships clean.
teach me to love, without fear of commitment
those to whom I have chosen to commit,
to cultivate steadfastness, respect, fidelity,
to honor my boundaries
and the boundaries of those around me.
Teach me to be vulnerable
both in strength and submission
that I may never misuse my heart and my needs
in those relationships, I cherish.
Teach me to tease through the complications
in ways that bring value to my relationships, my home,
my commitments, that love may grow and be shared
in ways that honor You and all parties involved.
For when we truly honor ourselves and respect who we are,
and what those things mean to us,
that is when we can more fully love those around us,
respect them, appreciate them
and thus, better fulfill
our commitments to the Powers. 

Help us, oh Goddess, for when we do not know ourselves
we run the risk of being subsumed in the needs of others,
and in so doing forgetting ourselves, our sacred work,
our obligations to Gods, family, community, and our own souls.
Bless us, Oh Goddess, with the wisdom of growth,
even when we struggle.

Hail to You, Goddess of boundaries,
for honoring boundaries is the first step
to cultivating a deep and abiding love.
Hail, Pudicitia, called Patricia, called Plebeia.
Honored by high and low alike.
Hail.

 

Day 6: She Who Teaches

Your lessons are about self-preservation
and cultivation, Oh Goddess.
You are firm and rightly insistent
that we must hold high standards for ourselves,
because in the end, mentored or not
by human beings, we each alone
are responsible for our devotional lives,
our relationships with the Gods, the ancestors,
the spirits of the land in which we live,
and our communities too.
We cannot foist the blame off
on others, for what we ourselves
have failed to accomplish.
We cannot lay at the feet of strangers,
responsibility for our own poor choices,
be those choices of action or of inaction,
no matter how much we might like to do so,
or how much our culture says it’s ok.
You are there to remind us, Patricia,**
that we are each expected to cultivate,
to the best of our ability, piety,
devotion, and good sense,
toward the Gods and ancestors,
the spirits of the land,
and toward those people in our world
whose lives touch ours.
There are no excuses for what we fail to do.
Our life’s challenges are there to inspire us,
and like an athlete honing his body with weights,
to hone our character too.
Like a good and proper Roman matron,
we have been given a house to tend,
and it is up to us to do that well.
But You are there when we ask for help.
and though You accept no excuse,
You will help us up when we stumble,
and give us guidance when we ask,
and ever support us in our devotions,
that we may become the best person
it is within our living capacity to become
on the inside where it truly counts,
and in our lives writ large as well.
You do not care about our pretty words.
It is our conduct day to day, and especially
in sacred matters
– and everything is a sacred matter to You—
that You would have us govern ourselves.
Hail to You, Patricia.
May You always guide us in this endeavor.

 

Day 7: She Who Safeguards

You have been honored by empresses,
by the elite matrons of Rome,
and by humble wives of plebeians too.
Your shrines have been beautiful temples,
but also, a modest room within a woman’s home.
Yours is the royal road of wisdom
that every foot is invited to walk,
and You hear all prayers offered to You.
Women have ever been Your special retainers,
You have charged them with a heavy task:
that of being good examples to all
within and without the haven of their homes.
You want Your women to be seen,
that their carefully cultivated examples
of Your most sacred cardinal virtues:
modesty, piety, and respect,
might be seen as well.
Thus, do You firstly teach,
through those who espouse Your veneration.

Your shrines were always tended by married women only.
Girls unmarried were too young and too inexperienced
to be trusted with such a task.
It would have been a cruelty
to expect maidens to uphold the values You teach,
without guidance, without support.
You are not cruel and those values enhance the world
and our devotion to the Holy Powers within it.
They are not meant for harm.
To a child on the brink of womanhood,
wrestling with the challenges adulthood soon brings,
it is better to have exempla of her elders to guide her,
than to shoulder such a heavy, heavy burden alone.
No, Your ways are meant to be cultivated little by little,
taught from mother to daughter, and yes, mother to son,
so that when the world beckons,
Your wisdom will already be knit into our souls.
You are She Who inspired Lucretia,
and fierce Verginia, who refused to be denied
veneration of You, and rightly so.
May we have the stubborn courage to refuse as well,
when those in our world foolishly undermine
the values You teach.
Hail to You, Plebeia,
May I never close my heart
to Your tutelage.

 

Pudicitia

 

 

** “Patricia” from the word ‘patrician’ was one of Her epithets, as was “Plebeia” from ‘plebeian.’

(prayers by G. Krasskova; image by W. McMillan).

Seven-Day Prayer Cycle to Pietas

Day 1: for Pietas, Who Brings Blessings

In the morning, before the sun rises,
while the moon still illuminates the sky,
gently inspiring with His beauty,
You rise to tend Your day.
Before the frenetic rush and riot
of family, work, and all Your daily tasks
vie for Your attention,
You seek out the comfort of the moon,
moments of serenity in which to order Your tasks;
and in that ordering, in the sanctuary of heart and mind,
Your finger each sacred obligation, each connection,
each covenanted commitment like the precious jewels they are,
and You remember, calling to mind their value, their importance,
and all the reasons You hold them true.
May we too do the same, oh Goddess,
may we restore and renew in the fastness of our beings,
all the sacred covenants to which we are bound.
May we remind ourselves again and again,
why we do this, and the love we bear
for our Gods and dead.
Hail to You, Pietas, may Your name
ever be spoken in reverence.

 

Day 2 – for Piety, Who is Mighty

She is a Goddess,
and Her name means grace,
righteous balance, and devotion.
She knows all the ways
In which to right our world.
She knows and proffers them to us
With holy hands.
She is harmony,
The resounding melody
Of all the spheres
Dancing in perfect rhythm.
She is ratio and perfection.
She is the royal road
Open to us all.
She has no need of armor or spear,
Sword or terrifying mace,
Though Her blessings fall
On every right-minded man
And woman too
Going forth to do their duty.
She has only to reveal Herself,
To enter a place, a heart, a home
And it is transformed
Into a victorious field
Where enemies of the Gods
May no longer dwell.
Hail to You, Pietas,
Sweet Perfection,
A Beauty found only in You,
By which we are raised up.

 

Day 3- for Pietas, Who Nurtures Tradition

Oh Goddess, Keeper of the most ancient and necessary of virtues,
Cultivator of the Holy, Guardian of sacred traditions,
Kindle within us the flame of fervent devotion.
Protect us from acedia, from pollution, from lack of care.
Inspire within us a desire, always, to do what is right and proper:
For our Gods, our ancestors, the land from which we draw sustenance,
And our traditions, the delicate and holy trust which have been given into our care.
Show us, Mighty Mother, how to tend these duties fully and well.
Let nothing deter us. Let nothing interfere, least of all our own fears
That our work will not be perfect.
Inspire in us a motivation as fierce and unstoppable
as the very turning of the seasons,
that we may cultivate within ourselves,
all the virtues necessary,
to live a life of devotion
pleasing to our Gods.
Teach us, Oh Goddess both gentle and firm,
To develop in ourselves the virtues of loyalty, fidelity,
Commitment and care, caritas toward the Gods
And each other.
Let us nourish what must be nourished.
With hearts and hands ever lifted in prayer.
Hail to You, Pietas, now and to our final breath.

 

Day 4 – for Pietas, Who teaches Devotion

Without piety, Oh Goddess, we are nothing.
Upon what other foundation ought our lives be wrought?
That gift of grace and understanding that You bear is precious;
and from the moment we were formed in our mothers’ wombs,
essential. Upon what else ought the work of our souls be focused?
It is a joyful, sustaining duty that You teach us,
to tend well our world of family and home,
city, town, and state, to render well the service
that rightfully ought to be given to these things.
But most of all, best and highest of all,
You teach us what it means
to be in right relationship with our Gods and ancestors,
with the land that nourishes us and all the spirits therein.
You help us to live in a way that nurtures these relationships,
that gives our own lives purpose and ensures that we contribute
to that which the Gods have built in ways that allow us
to rightfully pass it on into the hands
of those who come after us,
leaving all these things in better shape than we received it.
Hail to You, Pietas, may we always be mindful
of the sacred duty* for which we were born.

 

Day 5 – For Pietas, Whose Grace is Love

Piety is not a harsh, unyielding thing.
It is not heavy and vicious,
a burden to bear instead of a blessing.
Those who learn at Your feet,
who heed well the lessons You gently teach
learn the truth: that it is the sweetest joy
a mortal may taste in this world.
Piety is the honey-gold link of love
that ties us ever to the Gods and They to us.
It is the rich ambrosia that allows us to share
in the eternal feast of the Immortals.
It is wealth beyond measure,
that opens our lives to every abundance.
It all begins with Your lessons, Gracious Goddess,
and our own willingness to learn those things
that are Yours first and foremost to teach.
May we always be willing to do so.
may our hearts be filled with Your wisdom.
May our mouths feast on the sweetness of Your words.
May our souls rejoice in the beauty of this knowledge;
and may You bless us in this endeavor, every and always,
especially when we struggle the most.
Hail and honor to You, Holy and Sacred,
Hail, Pietas.

 

Day 6 – for Pietas, Who Keeps us Clean

It is Your grace that nourishes us
in times of deepest distress;
Your power that lifts us up
out of the muck and poison of modernity;
You, unyielding and unhesitating,
Who shows us a healthier, better way
in which to weave the tapestry of our lives.
It is You, Sweet and Gracious Goddess,
quietly formidable, ever-holy Keeper of our Traditions,
Who sweeps away the dreck, cleansing and purifying,
who lights before the eyes of our souls,
a torch that will lead us to the brightly hallowed
hearth of our Gods,
should we but cultivate the fortitude to follow it.
Help us to do just that, Pietas,
to cultivate within ourselves that precious fortitude.
Help us that we may be valiant in following You
and those things, intrinsic and integral
to the good of our souls, that You teach.
You, Oh Goddess, the sacred Presence
in which nothing wicked, nothing polluted, nothing evil
may find purchase, help us to but stay the course,
knowing that however dark and lonely the way may seem,
under Your tutelage we are never alone,
but stand resilient and whole with generations of forebears
who knew the rightness of honoring You,
supportively at our backs.
With your grace, we too may one day stand
with that august and hallowed company,
urging on in support, the next generation
of devout and pious polytheists
to but stay the course.
Hail to You, Pietas,
ever and always our guiding star.

 

Day 7 – to Pietas, Who Brings Joy

You, in Your quiet way nourish the Gods,
as Helios in His bright-streaming chariot
nourishes the earth with His journey.
You tend and turn the hearts of mortals,
to right contemplation of the Gods.
You inspire the hearts of philosophers,
to meditate upon the virtues.
You encourage artists in their work
of bringing beauty into being
lifting up aching souls to the heavens.
You whisper in the ear of the home-maker,
and call to mind the wisdom of the dead.
Your blessings fall on soldiers,
who protect their people,
on the teachers, who nurture
the next generation,
on bankers, secretaries, lawyers, farmers,
mechanics, on everyone,
on all those who work hard
to sustain themselves and their world.
Into each and every ear You whisper encouragement,
devotion is for everyone.
You hold out glimmers of promise,
that the Gods are here,
that it is right to honor Them,
that it is a joyful thing to make one’s life
a celebration of Their blessings.
You teach us that everything is sacred.
Everything is a secret doorway to the Holy,
and everything a means by which the Holy
can find its way back into our world
over and over again. You place into our hands
the key to that door bidding us to open it wide.
If we are brave, if we allow ourselves
to hear Your voice,
if we but run laughing in the direction
You encourage, then we too
in our own small way,
might blaze like Helios across the sky,
(hail Him, joyously!)
and light the hearth of our world,
with hallowing fire,
until any and all pollution
is burned away.
You are the ultimate Mystery,
the ever Glorious One,
and to You always and ever I bow.
Hail, Pietas.

 

Pietas

*the meaning of the Latin word ‘pietas’ that is also the name of this Goddess, is duty: to Gods, ancestors, land, city, family, state, etc. it was all bound up in the meaning of piety for ancient Romans, and from this came the Pax Deorum.

(prayer cycle by G. Krasskova; image by W. Mcmillan)

Day 5 — For Apollo

Your love is a terrifying thing to bear,
Sweet and searing, You penetrate to the core.
It is like walking off a precipice,
and whether we fly or fall is all the same
when the ending is You
and the conflagration of Your affections.
Oh Sweet God, burn away all that keeps us from taking that leap.
Let us not be like Kassandra, inconstant, aching,
so hungry for You and yet so afraid. She was a slave to Her fear.
Let our fear never win. Let it instead be the spice
that flavors the feast of the senses You proffer.
Free us from the chains of our terror.
Let us rise proudly into Your embrace
counting as small the consequences of such devotion.
There are always consequences to devotion.
Let us pay the requisite price gladly;
and then let us throw ourselves madly
into the heat of Your Presence.
Hail to You, Apollo, most-longed for God.
Hail to You, and all Your hungers
that fuel the fires of our veneration.

(by G. Krasskova)

Day 4 – for Apollo

Frenzied speech You give, the oracle-woman bowed back
with the force of Your Presence in her head,
with the force of Your words erupting like a volcano
from her heart and mind, dancing and blazing on her tongue,
every synapse burning bright, as though she had fallen into the sun.

Frenzied speech and prophetic power You bestow, Great Lord,
weaving like a serpent through the brain, opening doorways
through which Gods and spirits might howl triumphant.
This is a high art, and You train Your women to wield it
swift and sure, mercilessly and sometimes cruelly,
like a surgeon’s blade, deployed keenly and without hesitation.

It is this Power, like the blistering force of a thousand suns,
that shines the wisdom of the Gods into mortal lives.
Those who heed it uphold the will of Zeus,
the immortal hierarchy of the heavens, the glory of the cosmos.
Those who ignore these whispering women glory-sent,
wreak their own destruction and order is again preserved.

It is the pristine ratio dancing, ever turning, ever re-harmonizing in Your hands.
You maintain the radiance of its song, the cosmic majesty of its dancing sequences
through which worlds are born, pass away, and are born again.
Preserver, Savior, Eternal God, Your songs soar in the hearts of those who love You,
and through the cosmos too, restoring order to all things touched by the sourness
of spiritual decay.

May we too join in this dance. May our hearts be patterned for Your song
that like wood in the blazing fire, we may be transformed, into light and heat
and conduits of Your goodness to our sad and broken world, every day of our lives.
Hail to You, Apollo.

(by G. Krasskova)

Day 6 – for Apollo

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl
away from every evil thing.

Bright Apollo, far shooting God
of healers and prophets,
I offer this prayer to You today.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl
away from every evil thing.

Most Holy Apollo,
Klarios, Oulios, Alexikakus,
Who averts all harm,
protect me, oh my God.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl
away from every evil thing.

In Your Presence, oh my God,
nothing impure may stand.
In Your Presence, oh my God,
nothing impious may find purchase.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl
away from every evil thing.

Shining Horios,
keep my boundaries strong,
that no pollution may affect my mind,
my heart, my soul, my work.
Boedromios, preserve me,
as I wade into this filth.

Holy Lord, cause my skin to crawl
away from every evil thing.

I lay my petition before You, Shining God,
that I may stand in the light of Your protection.
To You, Lord Apollo,
I pray.

(by G. Krasskova)

Day 3 – for Apollo

 

Hallowed One and hallowing,
You make whole that which is broken.
Your gentle hands bring healing,
tenderly encouraging growth and restoration.
Medicus, by Your grace and generative power,
You gifted Asklepius to the world,
and from His children, Mighty Sons and Daughters,
struck a blow against miasma and hurt.
Your temples are sanctuaries and so powerful Your blessings
that even the Christians hailed You, calling You angelic,
and best defender of the heavens.*
On this, they were not entirely wrong.
Yours is a purifying healing force against which
no possible pollution, illness, or malefic spirit may stand.
Your face is glory. Your touch a beautiful solace.
Your very presence is undiluted joy, ecstasy of mind, heart
and most of all, spirit. You move our tongues to praise,
our hearts to reverence, our bodies to celebration.
Enfold us, oh God, sweet and noble Lord, in Your light.
Restore us, Brightest Lord, we pray.
Renew us in all ways, that we may praise You more fully,
and every day with greater joy.
Preserve us, Holy Lord, from all the dank, impious places
we must walk in this world.
Fill us with Your light until no pollution remains
nor the possibility for it to fester and grow.
With this prayer, let us be aligned with our Gods,
with You, mighty Healer, as our advocate.
Hail to You, Apollo, may the warmth of Your blessings flow.

 

(by G. Krasskova)
*there is evidence that in several early Christian communities, Apollo was syncretized with Michael the Archangel. Pagans also did the same, and occasionally venerated Michael.

Day 2 – For Apollo

 

You are terrible in Your wrath, Son of Leto,
when You stride into battle, gleaming arrows
rattling in their golden quiver.
Rage is too small a word, for the fury
that radiates from You,
more fiery than the sun,
deadlier than any blade.
You protect Your people,
raining plague upon those
who trample upon Your servants.
You strike down the impious,
and stop the evil-doer in his wake.
With Your raging war-cry,
You shatter pollution,
scattering to the winds,
all who would oppose You.
When You let fly Your arrows,
Your aim is ever true
and You destroy them.
None may escape You.
Howling Ares in His battle frenzy
may indeed match Your war-dance,
but You are cold precision, ice to His fire.
You never miss Your mark and when You take
the field of battle, Your heart is empty of mercy.
Agrios, best of hunters,
let Your fury fall upon all
that would seek to challenge divine order.
Set loose Your ravens, turn lose Your wolves,
that they may rend and tear Your enemies,
until You stand unopposed and triumphant.
Be our shield against evil, Bright Son of Zeus.
Hail to You, Apollo.
We will reverence You always,
not out of fear – for we will be ever pious—
but in love, and awe at the terrifying beauty
of Your majesty.
Hear our prayer, we pray.

 

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(prayer by G. Krasskova; image by L. Perkins)

Dionysian Kenosis

(again, rambling…you’ve been warned)

 So, the subject of ‘kenosis’ came up in the first paper I heard today. When I looked it up (because I’m toggling in this conference between Catholic and Orthodox perspectives and also, I’d heard of it solely in the context of a goal of devotional practice), initially I saw it defined as Christ’s rejection of his divine nature during the Incarnation. It’s more complex than that, but that initial definition did get me thinking. Why would this ‘putting aside’ of divine nature have to be ‘rejection?’ So, thinking of our theologies, I’m immediately reminded of Euripides’ play “The Bacchae,” in which the poet has Dionysos declare that (to educate Thebes) He will “put aside His divinity” taking human form. While this is a play, Dionysos is the God of theatre and it does reflect the practices and language and ideas and mysteries related to this particular God. Could one say that what is happening when Dionysos does this is a type of kenosis? (which the theologian just described as ‘self-emptying, taking the form of the servant’).

I wouldn’t describe any of this as a rejection of divine nature. Rejection would imply a permanent disavowal, wouldn’t it? ‘Putting aside’ implies that one can then put it back on (the root of the word ‘rejection’ implies a throwing back of something). Even within the Incarnation, was it a rejection? Was not God the father ever with the son even through the intense humanity and human suffering of the Incarnation? For our purposes did not Dionysos remain divine even when He was wearing human flesh?

Kenosis is more readily Christ’s emptying out of Himself to be open to God’s will. It’s…complicated. I do think ideally, we as devout people should seek to empty ourselves out (the meaning of κενοω) so that we can be filled with our Gods, so that we can be completely receptive to Them and Their will. The lecturer now speaking keeps talking about “self-emptying obedience” and I take issue with the way in which she’s using the latter term…devotion is more active, an active annihilation of all those things that would keep us from being fully open to the Gods. There’s nothing passive in it, save for the receptivity that allows us to eventually experience our Gods. And even within that level of receptivity, whatever obedience there is becomes full alignment, a partnership not an abrogation of personal will but a uniting of that will with our Gods…do Christians mean the same when they use this term?

Back to my initial point, I can totally see kenosis as a means and goal of devotional living (regardless of one’s tradition. I think ultimately we should empty ourselves of ourselves, of all our bullshit so that we can be the most useful tools and servants possible of our Gods. THAT is exactly what devotion entails), but I struggle to see it applied to the incarnated Christ. Returning to Dionysos, which is far more relevant to our praxis than Christ (with all respect to my Christian friends), when He put aside His divinity, was He emptying Himself out so that He could better align with HIS true will?

I want to parse that out…what does it mean that a polytheist could accurately say Dionysos is putting aside His divinity…here’s the Greek:

ὧν οὕνεκ᾽ εἶδος θνητὸν ἀλλάξας ἔχω
μορφήν τ᾽ ἐμὴν μετέβαλον εἰς ἀνδρὸς φύσιν.(Bacchae, line 54)

for which purpose, having set aside my form (lit: that which is seen)
I bear a mortal shape and I have changed mine into the nature (φύσιν) of a man. (my translation)

If we look at ‘nature’ in the Aristotelian sense, it is the motivating essence, the material cause for a thing. It is the essential substance of a thing. In the Heraclitan sense, it is a thing’s natural development. Is Dionysos here lowering Himself down to the human level and allowing things to thus play out according to human rules and decisions? Its opposite is νομός, or law and custom so is this a means of giving more freedom and loopholes for events to play out? Is there a freedom in incarnation not found in the immortal sphere (a horrifying thought)? I was discussing this with Edward Butler (wanted to be sure that I was correct, that this was as intriguing a passage as it always had seemed to me, because surprisingly little’s been made of it in classics) and he noted that, “eidos often means just the visual appearance of something; but what does a mortal look like, qua mortal? Then in the next line we have andros physin, which has the same ambiguity. Physis can mean just the outward appearance of something, but it can also mean something deeper, the “nature” of something. Euripides seems to be playing a bit with the idea that Dionysos is taking on more than just the look of a human.” So, I think something is going on here and I can’t help but wonder if it’s something more than just a poet taking theological and poetic liberties.

Perhaps it makes no sense to make this comparison – Christians do what they do with their theology and kenosis is a particularly Christian theological term—but the entire conversion reminded me so strongly of that passage about Dionysos I could not help but doing playing with it here.

And…I went back to the Greek to the word εἶδος. It is the word from which we get our word ‘icon’ and I believe also ‘idol.’ It is something that can be seen, a form which can be seen. So, Dionysos is transforming His appearance. The presence of the word φύσιν complicates things for me. It has certain specific meanings philosophically, Is it all simply a change in appearance not reality here (unlike the licit view of the incarnation in which the humanity assumed by Christ is reality … unless one is a Docetist lol). I could go round and round with this for hours but I need to stop myself. Argh.

 

EDIT: So, thus am I served for writing this, while taking notes during a lecture, and discussing it all withe a friend via email. I had my etymology wrong above. “icon” comes from “eikon” and ‘idol’ from εἴδωλον. We get our word “idea” from εἶδος. What i wrote above still stands though: Dionysos is transforming into the idea of a mortal man…close enough to appearance to still ask: what does that mean? what is a God’s idea of mortal man and how would that translate to other mortals?