Flaming Thyrsos Tattoo

My new, conceptualised Flaming Thyrsos tattoo

I am once again basking in the post-needle glow of a new tattoo. Wednesday morning I spent three hours getting the latest addition to my body art collection, an image of the Flaming Thyrsos designed by my local – and preferred – tattooist, Donna Finney of Infinite Ink.

Originally, I went in with a straight forward request for the design: a central thyrsos, wrapped with vines and a serpent, the pinecone wreathed in fire and a Hekate’s Wheel ‘propped’ up at the base or ‘attached’ midway up the thyrsos’ shaft. It was this original concept that I believed I would eventually get tattooed.

When the time came to go and see the final design, I wasn’t expecting to see anything other than a more finely tuned, cleaner drawing of what I’d originally gone in with. However, what I was presented with actually took me by surprise.

The image in front of me contain all of the elements of the original concept I’d seen in my vision and yet it was not at all how I’d thought/felt/seen it. Going away from seeing it (even though I still booked my appointment) I mulled over what I had seen. It wasn’t my thyrsos…it didn’t look right, wasn’t how I’d imagined and seen it. Part of me began to wonder if perhaps it was the right thing to consider for my next tattoo, that perhaps I hadn’t yet realised something about the symbol and it’s use/purpose.

After about a week of doubts, something about the design suddenly made sense. It contained all the elements of the Flaming Thyrsos in my vision but it was flowing, in flux, less tangible and interpretable – it was the raw essence of a powerful, spiritual tool. Here I could access the symbols and power of one or more or all of the components, linking them to each other and to the Deities with which I have come to link this symbol – Hekate, Dionysos and Prometheus.

After having made this sudden distinction, it all made sense. By making the tattoo more obscure it was becoming more personal, more unique, more powerful. By the time Wednesday came around, I was more than excited to once again get back under the needle.

Once the transfer was applied I decided to purposefully not look at the tattoo coming to live until it was finished – even when I needed a quick toilet break I didn’t sneak a peek. During I listened to a number of tracks by Daemonia Nymphe on my iPhone and at one point I was on the verge of falling asleep (something that’s happened during my other tattoos too).

After 3hrs, I finally got to see the end result and I just couldn’t get over the vibrancy. I knew that it was right. It was now a part of me. I had a new outlook on the use of the Flaming Thyrsos as my personal, spiritual tool.

Next on my tattoo plan of action is to move ahead with getting  full, left arm sleeve with the Twelve Olympian Gods and Pegasus!

I am made by Prometheus.

I am liberated by Dionysos.

I am guided by Hekate.

Prometheus Inbound

Ever since my investigation of the meaning and use behind the Flaming Thyrsos, the nods towards the Titan Prometheus have been growing. Not merely content with popping up in the divinations surrounding the symbol, I began to wonder if perhaps He was trying to get my attention for something else.

So, I went back to the cards – the Mythic Oracle to be precise, as this is both my favourite deck and one I feel very connected too (after all, I had the image of the Dionysos card tattooed on me). I tried out a 5-card spread that would shed light on a question/situation.

Once the cards were selected, I turned over the first card which was to represent the overall theme/situation. I laughed out loud when Prometheus was staring me right in the face! Interestingly, He was paired with 2 fellow Titans – Rhea and Kronos – along with Iris and Poseidon; giving a reading that pointed towards a balance and harmony, as well as natural cycles.

To follow this up, I wrote down 5 questions regarding Prometheus’ interest in me/desire to get my attention and a similar theme presented itself, including Themis/Natural Order. The overall gist though was that Prometheus wanted attention from me.

That afternoon, whilst musing on how best to act on this revelation I found myself staring at a shelf that housed a generic Greek male statuette. Before I knew it I was sitting at the table with an assortment of paints and brushes and set to work on transforming the “plain” figure. A matter of hours later and I sat with an image of Prometheus looking back at me.

I painted his hair black, with a greying beard; draped in a deep blue robe standing on a rock. I also added an incision to his abdomen as a distinguishing feature, to represent where the eagle would devour his liver each day. Later that day I also remembered I had been giving a rather chunky, silver chain by a friend. When I picked it up, I instantly thought of the shackles that held Prometheus to Mt. Caucasus. Experimenting, I couldn’t decide whether to have Him bound in the chain or to have them lying before him, symbolising his release at the hands of Herakles.

And so I have a sacred icon of Prometheus to make central on some sort of shrine. I think I will keep it relatively simple and just offer libations and incense as well as the fire of the candle, for we wouldn’t have the gift of fire if not for his actions and subsequent sacrifice on our behalf.

My personal customised Prometheus statuette, chain and card from the Mythic Oracle depicting the fire-stealing Titan.

My exploration into his original worship and looking for those who actively worship him today hasn’t turned up much. That said it leaves me relatively free to follow my instincts in relation to a Hellenic framework and what I do know about Prometheus.

Further musing has also made me realise that the nature of the deities closest to me are outsiders in some way or another.  Both Hekate and Dionysos are liminal; they move between realms, exist within and without. They deal with the things most of the other Gods don’t seem particularly comfortable with; they’re personable, passionate, requiring us to look at ourselves and gain greater understanding of that which is hidden and within as well as our darker aspects.

Prometheus is the rebel. Another outsider, he threw his lot in with us: mortal man – his own (by some accounts) creation. Everything he does, he does for us, a beneficent father. He gave us the food from the Gods’ mouths, laying the foundations for all future sacrifice and he gave us fire, which in its own right – even by our modern understanding – is a gift of the Gods itself. With it we were taught how to cook food, keep warm, protect ourselves, smelt metals and work other material; the fires of invention, of passion, of will.

It is also reflecting my own innate qualities. I am a fire sign (Aries) and my birth chart mentioned that alignments and such at the time of my birth created a triple amplification of my fire qualities, making me in affect a Promethean Child. Also, though I’m not alone in this, fire is my favourite element. It is mesmerising, cleansing, transformative amongst other things and should be venerated as well as respected for we all know the capabilities of this element if mistreated or misused.

I cannot say whether this new relationship will be a long-standing one, as I have experienced the fleeting natures of certain deities in the past; all of which I am grateful to for their gifts and blessings. However, I am interested to see where this new route of worship takes me. I already know that the Flaming Thyrsos is my tool to connect further with both Hekate and Dionysos and it is wreathed in Prometheus’ gift to mankind.

 “Trickster, rebel, theif of fire, master of information and friend of mankind.”

~’Prometheus’ by Carol Dougherty

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