Deipnon

The next Hekate’s Deipnon begins tomorrow evening (Wednesday, December 28th) at sundown.  In general, this is a time for extensive cleaning of the home, offerings to Hekate, and offerings to one’s ancestors.

I begin Deipnon by removing all still-present non-votive offerings from all of the shrines in my home.  In general, votive offerings can remain on a shrine indefinitely, but if you are needing to dismantle the shrine or condense its size for some reason, then this would also be a good time to dismantle the shrine or to remove any votive offerings that won’t be kept for when the shrine is re-erected.  In an ideal situation, a fire would be lit, and all of the offerings (food, remaining libations, incense ash, votives, flowers) would be burnt.  In less than ideal conditions, if you have a place to do so, you can dig a hole and bury all of the organic material.  Otherwise, like me, you’re left to dispose of everything the way you do everything else – in the garbage.  This is ok.  It’s not a dire situation that you can’t dispose of old offerings in a special way.  The offerings have already been offered and anything the gods wanted, They’ve already taken.  You are now cleaning the shrines and making room to make new offerings during the next month.  I personally like to use Florida water in my cleaning on Deipnon because it works, but if you are concerned or bothered by cross-cultural practices, then you can stick to khernips or bay incense and your regular cleaning products.

After both the shrines and the rest of my apartment are clean, I make offerings to Hekate. If you keep an outdoor shrine for Hekate, you can leave offerings there.  If not, it’s time to take a lovely (and perhaps cold) walk to the nearest crossroads.  You will probably find an area within walking distance that feels right.  If all else fails, even the end of your driveway forms a crossroads (T-shaped) with the road you live on.  If you’re in the city, it can be a bit daunting because the cars never seem to stop coming, but I have learned that if you hold your head up high and don’t make eye contact with anyone, people are less likely to bother you.  I tend to bring Hekate an egg and an onion as they are what I most often have on hand, but for about a year, I grew leeks that I harvested every month for Her.  Cheese, honey, cake, pomegranates (and pomegranate flavored things), wine, garlic, fish, and mushrooms are also common gifts for Hekate’s Deipnon.  This food is both an offering for Hekate and what She uses to feed the wandering dead – those who have not undergone proper funerary rites and those who were wrongfully killed and not avenged.  Some people also donate to food pantries or volunteer at soup kitchens at this time every month because in antiquity, homeless and hungry people would often take food from Hekate’s shrine at this time.  I think that it requires a severe level of desperation for someone to be willing to eat food left for Hekate, but the practice persisted because when you are very hungry, you do what you need to in order to survive.

When I leave the food offerings, I say a small prayer.  If you have a deeper relationship with Hekate than I do, your prayer is likely to be longer and more involved.  It is quite alright for the prayer to be as simple as, Khaire Hekate, please accept this offering for You and Yours.  You can also choose to recite one of the Orphic hymns to Hekate or speak ex tempore.  When you pray, bear in mind that this is a palms down prayer as are all prayers to the dead and the gods of the underworld.

After I have placed my offerings and said my prayer, I back away from the spot for a few feet and then turn around and return home.  I don’t look back.  When I am back inside, I make an offering (usually milk) to my ancestors.  Some people have a very involved ancestor practice with ancestors who are rather vocal and present in their lives, but I don’t.  I am unclear on which of my ancestors are even in a position to be able to accept such an offering, and so I spend this time indicating that it is for any of them who are in a position to accept it, and then I spend some time telling them anything family-related that might be of interest to them and asking for their help and intercession with anything that I think they might be able to help me with.  I’m doing my part of kharis, at least, whether or not they’re actually in a position to be able to help me.

After I have cleaned, given offerings to Hekate and Her dead, and given offerings to my ancestors, my rituals for the evening are over, but there is one more piece of business to attend to.  I pay my bills.  We don’t want to begin a new month in debt to anyone, so it is best to pay all debts (or at least make payments on all debts) by this time each  month.

If you or anyone in your family has done something during the previous month that requires more purification than khernips can provide, you can perform a pseudo-dog sacrifice.  In antiquity, a dog was touched by all members of the family and then sacrificed to Hekate as the scapegoat for the family member in need of purification.  Today, even for those of us who do perform animal sacrifice, a dog is not an animal that can be sacrificed due to animal cruelty laws (which vary with locale, so please be aware of the laws where you live).  In lieu of a living dog, you can make a dog-shaped cookie, a paper dog, a wax dog, or even a knit or crochet dog (use cotton yarn rather than wool if you go this route) and have each member of your family hold the dog in their hands to transfer the essence of the bad deed onto the dog and then burn the dog in a ritual fire.  If you need to do this, you should go the extra mile of figuring out how to have a ritual fire for this.  It isn’t good enough to just throw the “dog” in the trash.

I tend to stay home after that if I can, but if I need to go out, I do.  Some people very strictly do not go outside after making offerings to Hekate out of fear that this is when the restless and wandering dead are out, and it is much safer to stay home.  They might be right, but as I have little to no contact with the dead, it’s not something that I’ve noticed.  An extra bit of protection in whatever form that takes for you (an apotropaic amulet, head covering, whatever it is that you do) might be in order.

Other people may not perform each component of this ritual in the same order that I do, but all of the components are important.  On Hekate’s Deipnon, we clear away old offerings, clean our living space, make offerings to Hekate and Her dead, make offerings to our ancestors, pay our debts, and atone for any wrongdoing we have committed.  If you owe someone an apology, don’t owe it to them anymore – pay that debt, too.

I wish all of you a meaningful Deipnon to be followed by a joyous Noumenia and a wonderful new month to follow.  Last month is over, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  I hope it’s something good for all of us.

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Apollon & Dionysos

Dionysos, brother of Apollon, is a god widely worshipped in our community.  Due to the writing of people like Nietzsche, some people make an erroneous assumption that Apollon and Dionysos oppose each other in some way and that worshippers must choose between them.  This could not be further from the truth.

I found a beautifully written paper by Lars Spuybroek called Sun and Lightning: The Visibility of Radiance in which he writes, “Apollo’s paradigm – mēdèn ágan (“nothing in excess”) – is anything but a tedious call for moderation; he is calling for moderation of excess. And the difficulty lies precisely in the fact that the two are not of the same order: you cannot simply stop halfway to excess. The problem cannot be solved with mere linearity. Con- sidering the question of moderation is equal to asking how things come to a close or how things find their end. Apollo has been wrongfully accused of being the single-minded, proto-Christian anti-Dionysus, a teetotaler god. But he does something far more difficult than abstaining: he drinks and finds a way to stop. The German Romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling clearly distinguished the “Apollonian inspiration from the merely Dionysian” as being “simultaneously intoxicated and sober.”   Dionysus merely follows monoaxial linearity in his quest for rapture – nothing could be easier. On the other hand, the Apollonian dual state cannot be resolved by dividing oneself in two, into a rational, moderating mind and a body thirsty for excess, since the mind would quickly concede after intoxication. Contradiction and ambiguity never solved anything. No, the two forces need to be mediated: the question can only be solved as one act, that is, as an equation. Here, a single act is not a continuation of doing one thing until the point of exhaustion. A single act relies on a curved trajectory: it starts in one direction and comes to a close in another. Apollo shoots upward while aiming forward. The Apollonian paradigm means that everything, whatever it does, needs to take a turn.”  I don’t believe that Dionysos’s methodology is as limited as Spuybroek seems to imply, but I think he explains wonderfully how Apollon and Dionysos are not of opposite and exclusive natures.

Apollon has an epithet, Dionysodotes*, which means He Who Gives Us Dionysos or Bestower of Dionysos, depending on your translation.  There are many theories as to why Apollon bears this epithet as it is not easily decipherable from myth.  One theory is that as music (and in particular, rhythm) can be a method of bringing on a trance state, the music of Apollon (though generally more associated with harmony than rhythm) can bring one into communion with Dionysos, the god of ecstasy.  Another theory deals with the sharing of Delphi between Apollon and Dionysos and the idea that Apollon vacates the temple to make way for Dionysos (and vice versa).  Another possibility is that the epithet refers to Apollon’s epithet, Paian, which may have at one point been the name of an independent god.  Paian is the healer of the gods, the one who is as Karl Kerenyi puts it, “the one to heal a god who was suffering, dismembered, or dead, or one who was temporarily mad, and enable him to become alive and whole again.”  Those familiar with the stories of Dionysos will surely recognize how the description of a god in need of Paian’s services could certainly apply to Dionysos, so perhaps Apollon was instrumental in helping Dionysos to become and/or remain the god we know today.

There are some epithets that are shared by both Apollon and Dionysos, which is not at all uncommon; many epithets are shared by several gods, and the names of some gods form the epithets of other gods.  Some of these shared epithets include:

Αγυιευς – (Agyieus) Protector of Streets and Public Places; Defender of Cities; of the Streets; Protector of Roads and Homes

Intonsus – Unshorn; of Eternal Youth

Melioukhos – Gracious

Πατρώος – (Patroios) He of the Ancestors; Father; Protector of Families

Σώτηρ – (Soter) Savior

I keep a shrine for Dionysos myself.  The picture below is a little old, and His shrine is a bit different now, but this photo was easily accessible to share.  I find the presence of Dionysos to be quite comforting and reassuring.  His ready willingness to let Himself be known is an undeniable reminder that you’re not “doing it wrong.”  I appreciate this gift immensely.

Version 2
my shrine to Dionysos circa April 2016

*I would love for someone to explore this epithet and the others mentioned for the devotional.