Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Poetry for the Esbat: Long Night's Moon & Thusly, the Mother's Moon

Nyx & Selene. Attic period (circa 430-410 BC) pottery pyxis. This object is among the countless ancient treasures of The British Museum.
Nyx & Selene. Attic period (circa 430-410 BC) pottery pyxis.
This object is among the countless ancient treasures of The British Museum


Ah yes. The Esbats.

Not that we had forsaken them during our unrecorded period, but in a peculiar way, it feels a bit like we did. 

This forthcoming full Moon is of course, The Long Night's Moon, but I find I must also designate this one "The Mother's Moon." For some, this may seem slightly contradictory -- especially those inclined toward the more traditional Neo-Wheel-o'-the-Year. But, what I do doesn't make much sense to most folks anyway. Nonetheless, I will attempt to explain this Mother's Moon moniker -- in a much abbreviated fashion -- below (perhaps I can elaborate further in future posts).

The past few months have involved a great deal of tying together of strands in the web of my own personal devotional cosmology -- as opposed to a grand-scheme cosmology which I tend to think isn't really all that important or even practical as a polytheistic animist. What I have had is a subtle yet grand connecting of dots, one of those, "Aha!" moments followed by a wide-eyed & protracted, "Whoah…" Except it wasn't actually a moment because it took awhile to unfold in a chain of fantastic "coincidences."

In the process of all this stumbling-upon, I have become, shall we say, familiarized with the primordial mother Nyx. But as Nyx is not the focus of our Esbat activities, I will not elaborate here except to say that as the personification of Night, doesn't it only make sense that she be also honored at this season, when the nights grow to their fullest? Maybe I am backwards, but I don't think so. I think there is great merit in embracing, respecting the darkness & honoring the strength of the lengthening night in opposition to the abbreviated & weakening day. We may still hold our vigil for the Sun & even lament the brevity of the daylight, but let us not forget to relish the richness of Mother Nyx at the acme of her attendance. 

I also mention it because in the process of honoring Nyx & her vast assemblage of children, I spent hours & hours reading Greek & Roman texts, including many of the beautiful Orphic Hymns. So it is that I have come to this Esbat's poetry. I am springboarding or segueing from the devotional project mentioned very vaguely some time ago which led me through an incredible process of discovery. It also, quite by accident (I think) to the Orphic Hymn No. 9 (or 8, depending on if you begin with 1 or 0). This hymn was composed for Selene, Greek goddess of the Moon & although I reserve my devotional practices for the Moon Herself, I find it just as thoughtful & appropriate to share poetry dedicated to a lunar goddess. Besides, I am not entirely certain that the ancient Greeks delineated between the two. (If you know, feel free to clarify.)

The Moon.
From the Fantastic Menagerie Tarot.
I even found a tarot card for this Esbat, taken from our ever proliferating collection of decks (they are much like mice that way). I took a very clever photograph of it paired with one of my latest box rejuvenation projects. Unfortunately, I seem to have arrived in the desert without my camera cable. Luckily for us, the Moon card's captivating image is available at the deck's website: The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot. (Yet another [1, 2gorgeous creation by the creative minds of Karen Mahoney & Alex Ukolov of Magic Realist Press.) I did not actually select this card, it selected me -- if you understand & I am sure that you may. Or not. The imagery in the card has some apropos symbolism, including the owl so often paired with Nyx in artistic renderings of her & there is also the mouse… *sigh* the mouse which reminds me of the altogether too clever white footeds who have truly overrun this beloved house of ours… what we need are some owls.

But enough prattling of predators & prey -- on to the poetry! (And some really lovely music too!)



ORPHIC HYMN TO SELENE (THE MOON)
 Translated by Thomas Taylor


Hear, Goddess queen, diffusing silver light, bull-horn'd and wand'ring thro' the gloom of Night.

With stars surrounded, and with circuit wide Night's torch extending, thro' the heav'ns you ride:

Female and Male with borrow'd rays you shine, and now full-orb'd, now tending to decline.

Mother of ages, fruit-producing Moon, whose amber orb makes Night's reflected noon:

Lover of horses, splendid, queen of Night, all-seeing pow'r bedeck'd with starry light.

Lover of vigilance, the foe of strife, in peace rejoicing, and a prudent life:

Fair lamp of Night, its ornament and friend, who giv'st to Nature's works their destin'd end.

Queen of the stars, all-wife Diana hail! Deck'd with a graceful robe and shining veil;

Come, blessed Goddess, prudent, starry, bright, come moony-lamp with chaste and splendid light,

Shine on these sacred rites with prosp'rous rays, and pleas'd accept thy suppliant's mystic praise.






Blessings to you this Esbat my friends.


5 comments:

  1. I love winter, I love dark nights! GlobalWarming needs to shake up the Neo-Wheel. Yay it snowed in Vermont, that's normal, yay yay! I am allergic to sun and overstimulated by light. I say I seek endarkenment. 99% of the Universe is dark. There is no balance, dark wins hands down as the norm. LOL. Plus it has such racist overtones.... And is immersed in monotheist duality of good and evil. As an artist if I only used light, the page would have no contours, no shadows, no shape! No 3D form. So celebrate Nyx! Celebrate darkness! This culture of fake positive thinking emotional fascism and denial of reality shuns the dark. Those who make friends with the dark are the strongest allies in this time of sudden changes, the end of both the environment and economic growth. Things have been taken out of humans hands. Darkness needs us and we need darkness....

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    1. "...we need darkness..." This is the crux of the matter for me.

      As diurnal mammals, we need the balance of day & night, but boy, we forget that whether we are Sun-loving, night-fearing, light-up-every-square-inch-of-the city & blot out the stars humans, or if we swing into deep Gothdom, shunning the light & hiding out on our parent's basements until the Sun sets. I think, *as humans,* the balance is critical -- you can see the adverse effects of an unbalanced day/night cycle up in Alaska. Wow. We all get weird. Or depressed. Or manic. Or all of the above. In the thick of the Summer, when the Sun refuses to set, Oh! how I long for the quiet still & darkness of the night. Instead, it's people grocery shopping at 3 a.m. when it still looks like 3 p.m. And, of course, the inverse applies in the Winter, when I take my child to school in the dark & the bus drops him off in twilight.

      But you pointed out that we associate the light with positive thinking & optimism. This is a peculiar thing. I find I look forward to night time & darkness for a variety of reasons. I tend to personally associate the evening with food, wine, company, winding-down, togetherness & perhaps some time to read. I associate nighttime with my bed, sleep, dreaming, the Moon, stars, quiet... & sometimes, albeit rarely anymore, the thrumming excitement of nightlife, dancing, dining, etc. Where is the negativity in this? Yet humans, humans sure shun the darkness & the night.

      Of course, Nyx herself is the source of a mixed bag of godforms & to me, that makes sense. The darkness (Erebus) & the night (Nyx) to a great degree represent the All & the Nothing, the primordial Source. Her children run the gamut of personae -- from Aether (light/air/life) & Hemera (day) to the bloodthirsty Keres (violent deaths), from the Oneiroi (dreams) to Eleos (mercy) to Oizys (suffering) to Momos (censure, criticism) & on & on. One of the primary lessons in my devotional project was seeing the balance in the darkness & the necessity thereof.

      We cannot fully experience one without the other to teach us the difference. Why else do we fear the dystopian tales where everyone is always "happy" & there is no struggle, strife or suffering? We need that contrast in experience & sensations. Like you mentioned, there is no contour without shadow... & many of those shadows can only achieve their grandeur & lushness in direct relationship to the light.

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  2. Great post! Something I've encountered recently with Alaska and its extreme sunlight/lack of sunlight, is how it is impossible to construct a Kemetic festival calendar from this location (and Kemetic calendar computation requires exact physical coordinates). Which, while on the one hand this is not too surprising in and off itself, (Alaska nothing like Egypt? I don't believe it!) it is still in many ways a uniquely "Alaskan problem" as most places in the more "middle parts" of the planet are able to still see the rising of Sopdet/Sirius in late summer from their coordinates. Therefore, most modern Kemetics do seem to calculate their festival calendars in this localized way, that they can actually observe as opposed to picking an Egyptian location. For myself, out of necessity, I've decided to base my festivals off of the coordinates of Bast's ancient cult center of Tell Basta, and will re-calculate when I move to more southerly climes, so the family and I can actually observe this astronomical event each year.

    My understanding is that Selene was considered to be the Moon Herself theologically, at least during the period that the Orphic hymns were being recorded. And this is definitely how modern Hellenics understand Her, and are quick to distinguish Her from Artemis who is "lunar" and sympathetic to Selene, but a distinctly different entity. But I think its important not to forget Phoebe as well, whom the evidence strongly suggest was an earlier understanding of the Moon Herself, who by the classical period was reclassified as a "titaness" and thus one of the "old gods". This lack of apparent intellectual need for clear distinctions and taxonomies, between such concepts as "old" and "new", and "this" and "that" has definitely been the most extreme difference theological difference I have encountered between Kemeticism and Hellenism, btw. But when your measure of time is a concept like "eternity", instead of the length of a human life, these differences start to make a lot of sense.

    I think the Hellenic way of anthropomorphizing -everything- might be pretty difficult for an animist. Dryads are a great example of this - because I think that is the clearest example of what Hellenic "animism" looks like. The dryad, from a Hellenic way of thinking -is- the tree, or at least the spiritual reality of the tree that is worthy of veneration. The fact that only the hamadryads were mortal like humans and demigods and die with their trees, and that other dryads were immortal and able to flee to inhabit other natural phenomena is the thing that seems to make it the most distinct from traditional animism (in addition to the anthropomorphism of trees as human females). I think for many modern pagans this may also imply a larger degree of spirit/body dualism then I think was actually present in Hellenic thought. Hellenic beliefs about death (pre-Neoplatonism) seem to be the strongest evidence against the idea that there was a big difference between the two for them. They were intensely physical and intensely pragmatic. Dead is dead, and while the spirit may remain it is about as worthless to a person as their decayed flesh. Which, also explains why ancestor veneration was not really a part of Hellenic religion, while it is integral to many other forms of polytheism and animism. The ancient Hellenes, as far as I can tell, don't seem to have had any problems with seeing a world through a blatantly human lens. Which has its shortcomings to be sure, but also a high degree of intellectual honesty about subjectivity that for me, is hard not to admire.

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    1. My friend, you bring up a whole host of very important points. The "Alaskan problem" being among one of the most pernicious little thorns in the sides of any folks attempting to strictly follow any of the ancient or "neo" calendars. Like many things, I mostly gave up on that even before I moved to Alaska. That could be because I was really thinking I wanted to be all-things-Celtic whilst living in the American Southwest. Though that may also have been because I was always ignoring Kokopelli to doggedly chase Cernunnos. Uh. Duh. No wonder it never worked very well for me. Solar/Lunar/Astronomical events, changing seasons (when they actually happen, as opposed to Bealtaine in the snow) are workable when we recalculate them to our location. I also think it is fair to do as you are doing & stick to the old calendar, recognizing that it is in observance of the happenings in a sacred place, even if it isn't your own. I say, do what makes sense, but don't do it if you have to pretend it makes sense.

      "My understanding is that Selene was considered to be the Moon Herself theologically... Artemis who is "lunar" and sympathetic to Selene, but a distinctly different entity...(and) Phoebe as well, whom the evidence strongly suggest was an earlier understanding of the Moon Herself, who by the classical period was reclassified as a "titaness" and thus one of the "old gods"." This concept makes perfect sense to me & I *think* I can explain. I am not sure how other traditional animists or any of the handful of "new animists" perceive things, so this is only my own understanding of things -- just a preface so that I do not appear to be speaking for animists in general. I think most/any/all of us have multiple spirits. Some of these are attached to our material persons & remain attached -- the essence of our physical substance, as it were. But I suspect that there is also one or more spiritual "essence(s)" associated with our physical body in various ways. I also think there are those that are not associated with anything physical at all. For the Moon Herself to have a myriad of "spirit selves," "etheric identities," "souls," whatever you may choose to call them, isn't an odd concept to me. The Moon Herself as that luminescent orb careening through space has many identities, including the lunar goddesses who are both their own sovereign, individual identities, yet are also part of Her. It's one of those "mysteries" which I attempt to comprehend as well as my wee human mind can handle.

      "...when your measure of time is a concept like "eternity", instead of the length of a human life, these differences start to make a lot of sense." Absolutely. I suppose this is one reason I find myself increasingly attracted to this particular theological angle. (One which, interestingly, I had never had much interest in pursuing in the past. Funny how we sometimes find ourselves in the last possible place we ever thought we might wind up.)

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    2. "I think the Hellenic way of anthropomorphizing -everything- might be pretty difficult for an animist..." Not for this animist. In fact, to some extent, the anthropomorphizing of *everything* is part of what attracts me to the Hellenic writings. I cannot speak for other animists, however & I am inclined to think that my sense of what has "being" (for lack of a better term) falls on the broadest end of the spectrum.

      "... other dryads were immortal and able to flee to inhabit other natural phenomena is the thing that seems to make it the most distinct from traditional animism..." I am not convinced this falls outside the boundaries of some traditional animist belief systems. It certainly does not fall outside of mine (which is decidedly not "traditional" b/c I refuse to go try to be someone I am not vis-a-vis cultural misappropriation).

      "Hellenic beliefs about death (pre-Neoplatonism) seem to be the strongest evidence against the idea that there was a big difference between the two for them. They were intensely physical and intensely pragmatic." This sounds very much like my own beliefs. I would like to have you elaborate more when you can, or perhaps we can save it for when we next meet.

      "...ancestor veneration was not really a part of Hellenic religion, while it is integral to many other forms of polytheism and animism." As you know, from previous discussions, I am not particularly invested in ancestor veneration. This is probably b/c my sense of "spirits" does not really include a sense of individual identity (or, at least lasting identity) the way we humans generally understand it. I also do not recognize a continuity of "self" beyond our own reproductive code & the records left by our material culture. (This applies to beings that die, btw, not necessarily other beings.) This is really complicated to explain, so I will save anything more in depth for a person-to-person conversation. But, I suppose the short answer might be that when folks make offerings or make other efforts to venerate the ancestors, I am not convinced they hear us or are even around to receive them. Now, if the point is to remember for our own selves, as a family, a community, etc., that is another story.

      So much food for thought! Thank you for the comments & perspective! I look forward to having an opportunity to discuss this further when next we meet. :)

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May magick touch you today!

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