Bet you didn’t see that coming. My new blog and wordpress account (soon other social networking accounts) is The Dionysian Artist.
As a placeholder I’ve made it identical to this blog, but will make some changes soon.
Please follow the blog for updates, I will also follow anyone who follows me.
Thanks for understanding.
(Also note: this blog will be my personal / art blog, however I also maintain the Dionysian Artists ((with an plural)) this is a group devotional art blog that needs some tender love and care. I hope to get that restarted in the next year.)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog and related social networking platforms you may be aware that I’ve been going through a transitional period for the last five or so months. This transition has affected not only my offline personality, presentation and beliefs but also my on and offline identity. As such I believe that the handle (username) and role I’ve played as The Gargarean since 2010 has now been fulfilled and should be given to the embers of the phoenix. In The Gargareans place will be something new and something that is more appropriate for my current position.
Over the next year I’ll be mitigating and even recreating a new blog and associated social networking with a new title/handle/username.
I’m writing this as a forewarning, as over five years of exclusively using an identity / name and changing that name will be quite a task. So I expect will take some time to phase out.
Lastly I’ll maintain this blog indefinitely and let it archive. There is a mixture of good quality to bad quality writing here, some of which I enjoyed reading to myself today… actually I wonder if I wrote it? … digressing aside: apart from new blog updates this will be the final post by The Gargarean.
I wish to thank the gods for gifting me the role and to my readers for engaging and _reading_ my writing. It’s been a pleasure and an enlightening adventure.
Sannion wrote two very important articles on initiation and mysteries here and here. I was planning to write a comment but decided it’d be better to turn this into a post.
Since August I have suffered a lot of personal ordeals that has resulted in pain and trouble. It felt like my life was falling apart. To make ends meet and survive I had to accept commission work, one such was the Spirits of Initiation book cover. As I’ve been working with the Toys of Dionysos throughout the year I’ve become quite familiar with the Toys so it was an ideal commission. It was while in the midst of creating that image I experienced a dream.
A lot of my visions, epiphanies and experiences of the gods come through dream. I’ve been titled by Dionysos in dream as Dream Seeker. He said, ‘I will call you Dream Seeker, as you are a dreamer.’
So it’s seems fitting for me to experience initiation in dream.
What happened in the dream was a series of events including: The Hunt, Diving into a Lake of Death, The Palace, Bathing, Robing, Offered food (cakes) that I Refused, Meeting Naming myself and being Greeted by The King and Queen. After I awoke with such terror? and ecstasy that I couldn’t go back to sleep. Everything was different to me. I was restless. At 3am I got out of bed and started reading a stash of research papers I have on my computer. One was “Pentheus as Hypostasis of Dionysos: “the God-King Antagonism” by Guy Smoot (has it disappeared off academia.edu?) Here’s a quote from it:
“The earliest evidence for this is in fact the god’s single appearance in the Iliad in which he dives into the sea to escape Lykourgos. As is well known, the Iliad does not say that he dies but it is important to note that the act of diving in Greek religion and literature is a symbol of death. The archetypal Athenian king Theseus, Dionysos’ alter ego through Athenian cult and Ariadne, dives to his death on Skyros. The archaic tomb of the Diver at Paestum further exemplifies the connection of the dive with death. In the Bakkhai, the king’s downward fall from the god’s celestial tree poignantly captures, in and of itself, the intense agony of dying
The very act of falling is a process of death.”
(Guy Smoot, Pentheus as Hypostasis of Dionysos: “the God-King Antagonism”)
This was profound to me because moments before reading I just had this dream which involved diving into a lake of dead.
Then I started reading Heart of the Labyrinth again. Sannion opens with Leaf of Gold, a holy account by Oinomaos, son of Arete, husband of Aidesia. A particular part that struck out to me:
“Nor eat the sacrificial cakes of the Benevolent Ones … dung
and menstrual blood, the flesh of sinners are these …”
So it being around 4-5am I’m sitting there literally shouting out, WHAT THE FUCK.
Now my point being, I *HAVE* read this stuff all before. I’ve been studying mystery cults longer than I have Dionysos. (Actually my interest in the mysteries brought me to Dionysos). So I am familiar with a lot of this, but, a big BUT, I didn’t understand the true meaning until that dream.
This is why I’m a firm believer that the mysteries is *experience*. Despite the famous oaths of secrecy in ancient times there is a lot of information from that time that details the Mysteries and expectations in the afterlife. Most of this information can be found for free online, but it is also published in many books. The secrets are all there, but to actually understand them? You have to see it for yourself.
Onto the next point I want to address, understanding.
The dream, I believe, was my Initiation, or at least the divine component of it but it took me a some time to realise what it meant. Hey, I’m doing this mostly alone here. In the usual situations you have others that know what you are going through and support and foster your acceptance. In my case I had to perform a series of rituals and divinations, artistic trances, also experience ordeals and circumstances I didn’t plan. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t understand it. I suspected it was happening but this was going on for months. Two I think? I shut my mouth and continued saying nothing publicly about was happening to me.
My official statement came after one final sign to me. I was directly approached on the street by a person I’ve known for over eight years, a person I know is a holy mad man (Think a Satanic version of Diogenes). This guy knows nothing of me, I usually play along with his rants, yet keep him at a distance in a personal sense. Anyway, he began angrily calling me dead, that I’ve gone and seen the King and Queen in Hades and all this other Orphic related gibberish. It freaked me out. Now we can just put this down to mad ranting, yet this guy has always been good to me. Then this? Also saying very, very specific things without any knowledge of what I was going through? Come on… seriously? How much of a sign do I need before accepting what I’ve become?
It took me a while to comprehend what it all meant and come to terms of knowing myself. I’m sure this is not the end of it either. The point of this is being initiated means many things to people, for some witnessing the mysteries does not necessarily mean one *knows* as, in comprehends, the mysteries – sometimes it takes time to sort through that massive amount of information in order to get it.
The last part of this response. Paths. We often use paths and the labyrinth as an analogy of the Bacchic Orphic tradition/s. It’s good. I’ve come to think of it more like rivers though – (which is equally appropriate, especially if we regard the Nile) – rivers come from a source and as they travel through the landscape they bend, loop and hoop, divert into lakes, break apart as two paths and then join back together before reaching the sea, etc. I am strongly associated with the Starry Bull tradition, it has been my driving force, inspiration and fellowship. I have every intent to be initiated into their path/river/tradition. However I believe that there is a massively important physical component to the Mysteries and as such I do not claim to be an initiate into the Starry Bull Mysteries. The flow of the Starry Bull river has diverted off for me and I’m in another stream (The Dionysian Artists) I have no doubt it will re-join in time.
The only sport I’ve ever enjoyed is UFC (solely because it involves sexy half naked guys bloodedly beating the crap out of each other.) Otherwise I don’t like sport. My views seem to be shared with a large population of the polytheistic / pagan community. I suspect because the community is made up of… well… “nerds”. I’m not saying that as an insult, as I’m one of you, but I would however really love to see someone promoting and supporting sport, gym and other physical activities as devotion.
It would be really awesome to see a professional boxer calling out HERMES each time they got a knockdown. Or a person grunting Herakles as they pump some iron. Or hearing of reports from devotees about a game they went to see as a devotion.
It was kinda a big thing for the ancients and something that is missing from our communities nowadays.
That’s enough of my sporty rant. 😛 I like to elaborate on this subject later when I’m not so busy.
Yesterday Sannion and I were discussing the new Art is Anathema project, a community based Dionysian/Polytheistic devotional art project. Anathema is a word I’ve heard of but never knew what it meant. In Catholic and Orthodox faith it’s a word of condemnation with varying levels of complexity and negative connotations. For the Ancient Hellenics it was different, votive sacrifices dedicated to the gods often in the form of artwork.
What really caught me is this from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities by William Smith (as quoted on the Art is Anathema website )
“DONA′RIA (ἀναθήματα or ἀνακείμενα), are names by which the ancients designated presents made to the gods, either by individuals or communities. Sometimes they are also called dona or δῶρα. The belief that the gods were pleased with costly presents was as natural to the ancients as the belief that they could be influenced in their conduct towards men by the offering of sacrifices; and, indeed, both sprang from the same feeling. Presents were mostly given as tokens of gratitude for some favour which a god had bestowed on man; but in many cases they were intended to induce the deity to grant some special favour.
At the time when the fine arts flourished in Greece the anathemata were generally works of art of exquisite workmanship, such as high tripods bearing vases, craters, cups, candelabras, pictures, statues, and various other things. The materials of which they were made differed according to circumstances; some were of bronze, others of silver or gold (Athen. VI p231, &c.), and their number is to us almost inconceivable (Demosth.Olynth. III. p35). The treasures of the temples of Delphi and Olympia, in particular, surpass all conception. Even Pausanias, at a period when numberless works of art must have perished in the various ravages and plunders to which Greece had been exposed, saw and described an astonishing number of anathemata.
Individuals who had escaped from some danger were no less anxious to show their gratitude to the gods by anathemata than communities. In all cases in which a cure was effected presents were made to the temple, and little tablets (tabulae votivae) were suspended on its walls, containing an account of the danger from which the patient had escaped, and of the manner in which he had been restored to health. Some tablets of this kind, with their inscriptions, are still extant (Wolf, l.c., p242, &c.). From some relics of ancient art we must infer, that in some cases, when a particular part of the body was attacked by disease, the person, after his recovery, dedicated an imitation of that part in gold or silver to the god to whom he owed his recovery. Persons who had escaped from shipwreck usually dedicated to Neptune the dress which they wore at the time of their danger (Hor. Carm. I.5.13;Virg. Aen. XII.768); but if they had escaped naked, they dedicated some locks of their hair (Lucian, de Merc. Cond. c1 vol. I p652, ed. Reiz.). Shipwrecked persons also suspended votive tablets in the temple of Neptune, on which their accident was described or painted. Individuals who gave up the profession or occupation by which they had gained their livelihood, frequently dedicated in a temple the instruments which they had used, as a grateful acknowledgment of the favour of the gods. The soldier thus dedicated his arms, the fishermen his net, the shepherd his flute, the poet his lyre, cithara, or harp, &c.
It would be impossible to attempt to enumerate all the occasions on which individuals, as well as communities, showed their gratefulness towards the gods by anathemata. Descriptions of the most remarkable presents in the various temples of Greece may be read in the works of Herodotus, Strabo, Pausanias, Athenaeus, and others.”
As Smith states there are many ancient examples of votive offerings dedicated to temples, including simple things like basic terracotta or bronze animals to complex protomes, sculptures of deities, tripods, tables etc. But what I wasn’t aware of is the commissioned illustration of traumatic scenes, illness, accidents. This is a particularly fascinating to me because it’s a tradition that continues today in Sicily in the form of Ex-Voto.
“Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the received help. As such they may include texts explaining a miracle attributed to the helper, or symbols such as a painted or modeled reproduction of a miraculously healed body part, or a directly related item such as a crutch given by a person formerly lame.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex-voto
This then brings me back to my own work as a pavement artist. As this is my profession I have a keen interested in regards to the history of pavement art. It is an history obscured by a lack of interest from art historians because it deals with a subject that is usually considered lowly.
However pavement art history is extremely rich and powerful, there are even examples of it being a political movement in the late 1800’s as a preferred form of expression for the suffragettes. http://screever.org/
Asphalt Renaissance by Kurt Wenner* discusses the history of the pavement art, looking at examples found in other cultures in India and Buddhist mandalas, but Wenner’s main focus is on the Madonnari The traditional pavement artists of Italy. The Madonnari are known for drawing votive images of Madonna. In this regard, the Madonnari are considered the first pavement artists with references of their existence in the late Renaissance as maimed veterans of the Crusades.**
They were in every sense ex-voto painters, that would work outside churches, churchgoers would purchase the crude images and donate them to the church. Just like what the Greeks did. Some artists were so poor they could not afford boards to draw / paint upon so they began drawing on the street itself – giving birth to pavement art.
This discovery therefore draws a direct line from the Madonnari to the dona artists of ancient Greece and illustrates that the tradition of devotional artists goes back to ancient Hellenistic times.
*Unfortunately my book was stolen so I cannot provide quotes, however it’s highly recommended to buy this well researched, beautiful and awe inspiring book.
** This is why the crutch is a symbol of pavement artists.
I had a strange encounter with a young woman who called herself an ‘anarchist’. She aggressively approached me to sign a petition or something. As I have strict taboos I told her that because of my religion I cannot sign or support anything political and she responded, quite childishly, with: “there is no god”.
This made me angry but I just turned my back on her and walked off. Her behaviour was contrary to other anarchists I know. I put it down to her just being young.
Anyway, I wrote on facebook a response to this strange encounter:
“I’d like to stress that I’m strictly –religiously– apolitical. I owe no alliances to any nation, I cannot vote. If I could I would not pay taxes (Unfortunately my nation doesn’t recognise religious taboos against tax paying). I will go to prison before being conscripted into a war. I take no oaths. I will not side with anyone, thing or party apart from my god.
Regardless of how much I *personally* like a cause I am forbidden to support it. I may talk about circumstance and report situations but I strive to be unbiased. This is a very hard thing to do.
All I ask is that you please respect this, allow me to do it, don’t expect my response to any political causes and lastly, don’t insult me or my faith. That’s all I ask.”
Since I’ve accepted the titles of Dionysian Artist their values have become cemented into my psyche and I believe I understand them a lot more.
A Dionysian Artist is like a free non-citizen. A modern day similar position is UN diplomats who are granted immunities in their host country. A diplomat could theoretically commit a crime and not be punished. Of course there are a lot of responsibilities to being a diplomat and therefore they are usually honourable people. Apart from that they are granted many perks which is akin to the Dionysian Artists.
The Dionysian Artists were granted in the 279 BC Delphi degree absolute freedoms in all lands, but they also had a responsibly as religious leaders to uphold their devotional art to the gods. Politics is a Dionysian domain, political debates were often hosted in the theatre, but it was hosted by the Dionysian Artists. Therefore they could discuss politics (as in being ambassadors / diplomats themselves) but they could not give any opinion towards a cause.
As I don’t live in a fantasy land (or ancient Greece for that matter) I realise that I must be forced to make some compromises in regards to taxes and obey laws. But I will not be forced to support the nation I’m being hosted by (Australia) thus I will no longer vote. Now, I know for some US readers this doesn’t seem like much, but in Australia voting is mandatory with fines imposed if a citizen fails to show up at the polls. Fortunately the register does allow people with religious political taboos not to vote. So I have that ‘right’.
Dionysos also has warlike characteristics, violence is not out of the question for him nor his followers. This means I’m not antiwar or a pacifist. However as I cannot align or even consider myself a citizen of my nation. I will refuse conscription if it ever happened. Again back to the understanding that I do not live in a fantasy land I realise that from recent history others who have refused conscription are often imprisoned and labelled a coward. If that ever happens so be it.
My devotion to Dionysos is the only oath I can accept. I have given myself to Dionysos, I am his servant and artist. The only oath I can make is towards him. Oaths are weird things, in some respects they are an invocation to the god and very sacred. Anyway, I don’t take oaths, unless it’s an absolutely serious matter.
Lastly the only faction I align with is the Dionysian Artists. I will not be for or against any group / organisation / government /religion. Yet, if one of these groups want to press themselves and prevent creative potential and my ability to express my devotion I’ll fight against it.
With it being summer here I’ve been doing a lot of busking, its coming to peak busking season so there are a loads of local and international buskers out competing for space. On top of that there are shops, flyer handouts, spruikers, Salvation Army etc. It’s busy.
Yesterday there was a girl from Target handing out flyers and she kept approaching the people looking at my work. This affects me a lot, as people get distracted and walk off without giving me some coin. So I told her to do it away from my painting, only a couple of metres. She begun having this fit, “I can only work here!” “It’s my JOB!” Blah-blah.
I said, well go see your manager about it or else I’ll get in contact with the council. She did. After half an hour she hadn’t returned so I went into Target and found her, just to apologise if I was rude to her and make sure there was no bad air between us and Target. (Target staff have been really helpful to me in the past couple of months due to me being harassed by a beggar.)
All was cool, her manager told her not to worry about it. Apologies accepted. Then she turned around to me and said: “I’m an artist too! You know what you need to do if you want to make it big? You need to go on social networking, facebook, instagram” – blah blah.
I smiled and replied, “well I’ve been a professional artist for over eleven years and we’re on social media, but thanks for your suggestion.”
Of course I held myself back, I really wanted to say, “Just. SHUT. The. FUCK. UP!”
There is a certain irony that an ‘artist’ is working in Target telling a professional artist how to run their business. This is a common thing directed to us when we busk, people regularly tell us how to ‘make it big’ by suggesting we sell prints, go on social networking, get commissions, etc. etc. Suggestions we already do.
This attitude stems from negative connotations of busking, that it’s dirty, perceived as near begging. That the Street is a bad place and that buskers are nothing but unsuccessful low life’s.
Most of the time this is completely incorrect. What if I tell you I know several buskers, who still busk, are multimillionaires? That I know buskers who have performed for the Pope, the Queen and other royalty? I know buskers who have been massive hits on talent TV shows and others who have performed with famous rock stars? I know tons of buskers that have travelled the entire world and do so yearly.
Artists free and successful because they work on the street busking.
Then there is me. I’m a little strange compared to other buskers because I’m a very religious person. I consider busking to be devotional work. I dedicate my time, energy and money to the gods and consider the Street a sacred Dionysian domain. Busking, therefore, is very precious to me. I do busk to make a living, pay bills, rent – common bullshit expenses etc., but also volunteer my time to the gods and help spread art to the people. It’s a noble, pious and holy act to me. I don’t work the Street because I’m desperate for money, nor because I’m unsuccessful. If I wanted to I could quit busking tomorrow and continue living. I do it because I love it.
I’ve now done basic designs for all the Toys of Dionysos but Strobilos (cone/top). As I mentioned in my original post I plan to redesign the Sphaira (Ball / Sphere) and the Trochos (Wheel).
Some of the designs are really basic and require work *looks at the Mela*
Each of these will be adapted into oil paintings. As this project will be costing me time and money I might launch a crowdfunding or patreon account to help speed up the process. If I decide go down the crowdfunding path it’ll be next year. The completed paintings will be then turned into a set of divination cards.
If you’d like to learn more about the Toys of Dionysos, Sannion’s Spirits of Initiation book is now for sale.
Above is: Pokos (Tuft of wool). I consider this Toy to be related to the female mysteries which is why I gave her an Ovarian caduceus.