The Pagan Blog Project: B is for Beginnings

I’ve had this blog post written for a few weeks but my health has taken a turn more recently so this and the other ‘catch-up’ posts I’ve had in the pipeline have been delayed. Thanks to everyone for bearing with me and I hope to be over the worst soon to keep updating; the writing gives me something to focus on but is a struggle at the moment. Hope everyone enjoys this post.

Today I wanted to talk about beginnings – in particular, my beginnings on the spiritual path I am currently winding my way along.

From my earliest recollection I had a fascination with the natural world and would often loose myself in the ‘magic’ of the forest, parks, streams etc in the local area for hours at a time. I was fortunate enough not to be raised into any religious or spiritual tradition, with my parents both agreeing to allow me to follow my own way once I was old enough to understand – to the point where I wasn’t even christened.

At school I did love to sing hymns (often the more ‘pagany’ ones such as Lord of the Dance) and in Religious Education I enjoyed learning about the world religions – though the slant towards 70% Christianity over 30% all other religions didn’t seem right. It was also during this time that parallel to my interest in religion, my passion for ancient history grew also; ancient Greece, Egypt, Vikings, Aztecs – I was fascinated by rich, vibrant times past, especially in the deities and beliefs of these ‘lost’ civilizations.

Heading into my teens I became more actively aware of a desire to find ‘answers’, to follow an – as of then – uncertain calling. I read more into a wide range of options. I went to church a few times, read about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and others but nothing seemed right, nothing ‘clicked’ into place.

As I headed towards my fifteenth birthday, I finally found my footing on the path that’s meandered its way to where I am today. Together with a very close friend we found our way to Wicca where we both progressed together but in slightly different, yet parallel, directions. For me, my foundations as a solitary practitioner paved the way through to about 2003/4.

After Samhain 2003 I started to consider the nature of deity and the prospect of patron/matrons. I had had trouble with the whole ‘all god/desses are one God/dess’ concept, as well as the maiden-mother-crone archetype and so I worked up to a sunny, lazy Sunday afternoon where I went on a guided meditation to explore the prospect of a matron and/or patron deity.

In the meditation, I discovered a small Grecian-style temple on the top of a grassy hill and inside, amidst rich tapestries and flaming torches I found a glorious picture of a magnificent and mature woman in fine ancient robes, chestnut hair and deep green eyes. She revealed Her name to be “Ceres”. I felt a compulsion to find out all I could about her.

The name was completely unfamiliar to me at the time and naturally, I began my search online and within the neo-pagan communities I related to. I found out that Ceres was the name given to Demeter’s Roman counterpart. At the time I tried focusing directly on Ceres, but the information was limited (outside of Barbette Stanley Spaeth’s “The Roman Goddess Ceres” – a marvellous book by the way) and continually brought me back to the more widely available information about Demeter.

But the information I turned up seemed “flat” and inconclusive and on too many occasions did I keep stumbling upon the Wiccan archetype of Maiden, Mother & Crone. I mused for days on end, attempting to incorporate Demeter into my worship, but something didn’t feel “right”. I spent many hours trawling the Internet and pouring over books and while searching for more info and pictures on the Internet I stumbled across a site on Hellenismos and something “clicked”.

Hellenismos, or Hellenic Polytheism, is an attempt to revive and re-create the religion of Ancient Greece with adaptation to fit our modern, everyday lives and still retain meaning in that setting. Beliefs and practices are based on a multitude of rich and vibrant sources from the works of Homer and Hesiod to archaeological evidence and historical theory.

From that moment on it was as if Demeter had suddenly pulled back a curtain behind which stood all the other Gods, as if to say “surprise, we were here the whole time!”

After her “revelation”, Demeter stepped back as if to hand me over to the other Gods and since then, I have immersed myself in finding out all I can in honouring these most ancient and sacred deities. The more I have discovered, the more things have made sense. I have changed my religious practice much over a short time and yet nothing about the changes have felt wrong or forced.

In the relatively short time since immersing myself into the Hellenic Pagan community, I have watched it grow rapidly, bringing in new faces and interested parties the world over. New websites have popped up and devotees to the various Gods and Goddesses are open and free in the sharing of their knowledge and experience.

Whilst I don’t class myself as a staunch recon, I am all for paying due honours to the Gods in my life and learning from the past to advance into the future. Dionysos, Hekate, Aphrodite, Pan and Prometheus are just a few of the wondrous and potent beings that have entered my life – some staying longer than others, a few still near and dear.

It’s fascinating to look back at where I’ve come from. To remember my first steps down an uncertain path, defending my beliefs – though ever evolving – to those who doubted or belittled them; making friends and learning all the time, my first explorations of magic and ritual, such as the time I thought it would be a wonderful idea to cast a circle marked out with tealights (that I didn’t have holders for, so placed the little foils directly on the floor) only to have them melt into the carpet and my first spell which couldn’t have worked any faster or more accurately without divine assistance! And there is just so much more.

The end destination is always in sight, though forever moving ahead and it pays to never forget where we have come from.

What is the Flaming Thyrsos?

Welcome to the Flaming Thyrsos, my new blog. To begin, I thought I’d explain a little on the background and origins of the symbol and what I hope to achieve with this blog…

Since about mid-March, I have been envisioning the symbol of a flaming/burning thyrsos. For those who don’t know, the thyrsos is the pinecone-tipped, ivy-wreathed, fennel-stalked staff carried by Dionysos and his followers, the Maenads and Satyrs.

Dionysos has always been one of the big players diety-wise in my personal beliefs but I will admit to have let our relationship slide a little recently with my involvement with Hekate. Though in no way intentional I have found my thoughts and ritual focus becoming more Hekatean and as a result, a part of me began to worry and fret about my ongoing relationship with Dionysos.

So at first, the image of a thyrsos afire was a little disconcerting but in retrospect I realised that the fire was not consuming and was more focused around the pinecone tip, like a torch. The image continued to float around in my mind, day and night and I spent much time mulling it over and attempting to decipher the full meaning behind it.

When my thoughts started to go round in circles, I decided to glean some answers through divination. After some thought, I decided to pick a single card from four of my various Tarot/Oracle decks with the intention of each one gleaning some detail into the meaning behind what I was perceiving to be a powerful, spiritual symbol.

Firstly, I drew from the Mythic Tarot selecting the Hanged Man. From this I felt transition, sacrifice, spiritual transformation, what lies within, expansion of consciousness. Interestingly, the card depicted the Titan, Prometheus who gave fire to mankind in a stalk of fennel – the shaft of the thyrsos! I also felt that this was symbolic of the fire of the thyrsos itself.

Next I used the Mythic Oracle and drew the card of Rhea – Protection. This card gave the messages of what is right for ourselves, natural instinct/intuition, following inner rules, love/protection of what is truly sacred in our lives, duty to the self. Interestingly, the next card in sequence of this deck was also depicted by Prometheus – Sacrifice. Rhea is also an Earth goddess who in Phrygia became identified with Kybele, who is said to have purified Dionysos, and to have taught Him the mysteries. Interestingly, the Thracians conceived the chief divinity of the Samothracian and Lemnian mysteries as Rhea-Hekate.

The next card I drew, I took from the Olympos deck. Now generally I don’t have much luck with this deck as I find it quite complicated to interpret. Sure enough the card I drew – the Four Winds – was an outsider of sorts. An “indicator” card, it stands for movement, transition, adaptability, the onset of an active phase and mental activity. On reflection though this card did begin to link into the ongoing theme of my interpretation and also added the element of Air to the mix. Oh and the card previous in this deck? Prometheus again!

Beginning to see the meaning of the symbol developing, I drew the last card from one of my new decks: the Shaman’s Oracle. This is a beautiful deck, rich in ancient symbology. I hadn’t used it before, so was sure to give it a good shuffle and when it felt “right”, drew the card. The Spirit of Initiation card was all about open doors between realities, spirit guides, awareness, strength, enlightenment, inner wisdom, the path of transcendence, transformation. From both the meaning and symbology of the card it also brought the Elements of both Water and Aether.

I suddenly realised I had complete Elemental balance in these cards – pointing to the same balance in the flaming thyrsos itself! The components of the thyrsos also largely reflected this balance; ivy, pine, fennel and the fire. From this, my instant reaction was that this symbol was a spiritual tool of sorts.

For the next few days, I felt more attuned to what the Flaming Thyrsos meant to me but I realised I still wasn’t sure as to how to utilise this new tool. And so the nature of my musings shifted from what the Thyrsos meant, to what it was for.

And so I found myself looking for help with that answer and asked for a reading from a wonderful man named Sannion, who carries out Dionysian Oracles once a month. I have asked his aid on a few occasions in the past and always been blown away by the potent meaning in the simplest of responses from Dionysos through him. This time was no exception.

And so I asked the question: “What is there to be learned from the image of the Flaming Thyrsos I have been envisioning?” What Dionysos said in response through Sannion was mind-blowing and spine-tingling stuff. I have debated about posting the oracle here in full but I’m not 100% sure if that’s right. I have shared the Oracle with a few close people but let it just be said that I am now fully aware of the use of my new spiritual tool, I just need to start using it to bring about a balance in myself and in my devotion to both Dionysos and Hekate – and also the Promethean energies which have been increasing during my exploration of meaning behind the symbol.

Which brings me to this writing project; I have attempted blogging in the past but either set myself too many initial limitations, berated myself for not being active, or thought certain things not worth writing about.

The Flaming Thyrsos is my renewed attempt to reflect, find balance and explore my spirituality whilst sharing my insights, experiences and thoughts with those people who wish to know more. It will encompass all my relationships with various deities, the celebration of festivals and other acts of worship, poetry and other acts of creative devotion and whatever else I can think of or get up to.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!
Yours in the Gods,

~Kenn