Proclus the Eclectic Neopagan

Recently I’ve found the following passage (from The Life of Proclus or Concerning Happiness by Marinus of Samaria) to be extremely interesting and inspiring, especially since it concerns some important insights into the spiritual behavior (and practice) of one of my most beloved heroes:

“Every month he [Proclus] sanctified himself according to the rites devoted to the Mother of the Gods [Cybele] by the Romans, and before them by the Phrygians; he observed the holy days observed among the Egyptians even more strictly than did they themselves; and especially he fasted on certain days, quite openly. During the first day of the lunar month he remained without food, without even having eaten the night before; and he likewise celebrated the New Moon in great solemnity, and with much sanctity. He regularly observed the great festivals of all peoples, so to speak, and the religious ceremonies peculiar to each people or country.

Nor did he, like so many others, make this the pretext of a distraction, or of a debauch of food, but on the contrary they were occasions of prayer meetings that lasted all night, without sleep, with songs, hymns and similar devotions. Of this we see the proof in the composition of his hymns, which contain homage and praises not only of the gods adored among the Greeks, but where you also see worship of the god Marnas of Gaza, Asklepius Leontuchus of Ascalon, Thyandrites who is much worshipped among the Arabs, the Isis who has a temple at Philae, and indeed all other divinities. It was a phrase he much used, and that was very familiar to him, that a philosopher should watch over the salvation of not only a city, nor over the national customs of a few people, but that he should be the hierophant of the whole world in common.”

– Marinus of Samaria, from The Life of Proclus or Concerning Happiness (translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie)

There are three extremely important points here:

  1. Proclus “regularly observed the great festivals of all peoples, so to speak, and the religious ceremonies peculiar to each people or country.”
  2. The hymns composed by Proclus praised “not only the gods adored among the Greeks, but . . . all other divinities.”
  3. Proclus believed that a philosopher “should be the hierophant of the whole world in common.”

In essence, what Marinus is really saying is that Proclus was a true polytheist, who took his polytheism seriously enough to honor the goddesses and gods from many pantheons and traditions.  I find this inspiring, and it resonates deeply with my own beliefs and spiritual practices (which I’ve started referring to as “Eclectic Hellenism”).  And yet, if Proclus were around today, there would be a vocal segment (I’d like to hope they’re a minority) of the contemporary Hellenic polytheist community who would immediately dismiss (if not outright condemn) one of the most sophisticated Hellenic philosophers and theologians of all time as “just another fluffy eclectic neopagan.”  I find this both ironic and rather sad.  But after a recent encounter where my own “eclectic” views were completely dismissed (and where I was basically condemned/admonished for “not being a good Hellenist”), at least I can count myself in good company!

I’m fortunate to have mostly surrounded myself with like-minded (or at least equally open-minded) people.  I’d wager that every single person in my Grove of family and friends probably has a completely different set of theological/spiritual views and beliefs from everyone else.  We honor many different pantheons and many different traditions in many different ways.  And we’re okay with that.  In my world, diversity is a good thing.  Shouldn’t polytheism also promote pluralism, individuality, non-conformity, multiplicity, and an openness to encountering, experiencing, and honoring the divine in many different forms?  Is there even a place for such a thing as orthodoxy (or even orthopraxy) in a truly polytheistic worldview?

Anyway, I’d be curious to hear in the comments if others out there have had similar experiences with intolerance in your own dealings with the various sub-groups/traditions that make up contemporary paganism/polytheism . . .

Advertisements

Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? (An Eclectic Hellenist’s List to Remind Himself What Matters)

I haven’t posted anything personal in awhile, so perhaps this will fit the bill. This is not a poem. This is a list. I tend to make a lot of lists. It’s something I do. The past few months of my life have not been easy, and a number of events have made me extremely disheartened, a bit more disillusioned and disappointed in the quotidian world than usual. Some of these events would be obvious to the regular readers of this blog (like the death of my grandmother, which I’m still struggling with); others are so subtle I’m not sure if I could really explain them to anyone. One subject in particular has been bothering me: I find it downright staggering how many useless distractions pervade our lives. Almost everything out there in the mainstream culture seems so meaningless, so shallow, so completely devoid of wisdom and beauty and inspiration. Utterly fed up with it all, I decided to make this list for myself, to remind me what matters. It’s really long and I don’t actually expect anyone else to read it. But here it is anyway. If nothing else, it should at least provide a window into some of my tastes in literature, art, music, etc. For those who are interested, it includes a series of snapshots about my spirituality in general, some scattered insights into my beliefs and practices, some of my primary gods and spirits and heroes and ancestors, and examples of the many cultural and philosophical traditions I draw from. I list quite a few writers and books, so I suppose this could also be seen as my stab at generating an “Eclectic Curriculum” or “Eclectic Canon” or “Eclectic Great Books Program,” from the perspective of a multicultural queer feminist, epic poet and ardent bibliophile who happens to be an eclectic Hellenist and devotional polytheist (say that ten times fast). I had to limit myself to the number of items I included on each list-within-a-list, as this whole thing could easily have been 100 times longer than it is now. It is therefore necessarily incomplete (as all such lists always are).

The title and the refrain (yes, this list has a refrain – I see no reason why a list can’t have a refrain) were inspired by the title of a book by Harold Bloom. I’ve read almost all of Harold Bloom’s major books, even though I vehemently disagree with his rather Eurocentric/Western slant (which, to be fair, is also his area of expertise). He’s a self-proclaimed Gnostic (and his books are filled with Orphic and Hermetic themes), but I’ve also noted a distinct bias for the Abrahamic traditions, often to the detriment of the Greco-Roman Classics (one of his blind spots). All that being said, Harold Bloom is a brilliant gem in the otherwise rather dross world of literary criticism, and he remains one of the few contemporary literary critics who I constantly return to for inspiration. I’ve discovered countless authors – books that changed my life – from his insightful commentaries and introductions. And I have always admired his uncompromising commitment to literary excellence, regardless of mainstream trends. As Bloom explains in his introduction to Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?: “I have only three criteria for what I go on reading and teaching: aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, wisdom. Societal pressures and journalistic fashions may obscure these standards for a time, but mere Period Pieces never endure. The mind always returns to its needs for beauty, truth, and insight. Mortality hovers, and all of us learn the triumph of time. ‘We have an interval, and then our place knows us no more.’”

Which pretty much says it all, as far as I’m concerned. The following list was directly inspired by the above quote, by the mind’s eternal hunger for beauty and wisdom and inspiration. In an era where meaningless distractions pervade everything, I wrote this list to remind me what matters.

Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
(An Eclectic Hellenist’s List to Remind Himself What Matters)

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the poets:
in Homer and Shakespeare and Walt Whitman,
in Hesiod and Sappho and Ovid,
in Enheduanna and Li Po and Rumi,
in Matsuo Bashō and John Keats and P.B. Shelley,
in Friedrich Hölderlin and Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire,
in Emily Dickinson and C. P. Cavafy and W.B. Yeats,
in Rainer Maria Rilke and Fernando Pessoa and Yannis Ritsos,
in Mina Loy and Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),
in Antonin Artaud and Langston Hughes and Robert Duncan . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the sages:
in Socrates and Plato and Diogenes,
in Lao Tzu and Confucius and Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha,
in Marcus Aurelius and Plotinus and Proclus,
in Montaigne and Emerson and Thoreau,
in Thomas Taylor and Nietzsche and Black Elk,
in Edward Carpenter and Emma Goldman and Carl Jung,
in Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thích Nhất Hạnh,
in Jiddu Krishnamurti and Eknath Easwaran and Harry Hay,
in Iris Murdoch and James Hillman and Gloria Anzaldúa . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the novelists:
in Petronius and Apuleius and Lady Murasaki,
in Cervantes and Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens,
in Herman Melville and George Eliot and The Brontë Sisters,
in Leo Tolstoy and Marcel Proust and Franz Kafka,
in Thomas Mann and James Joyce and Nikos Kazantzakis,
in Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston,
in Marguerite Yourcenar and Jean Genet and Yukio Mishima,
in William S. Burroughs and James Baldwin and Gore Vidal,
in Mary Renault and Toni Morrison and John Rechy . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the storytellers:
in Chaucer and Boccaccio and Scheherazade,
in Aesop and The Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang,
in Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Caroll and Arthur Conan Doyle,
in Anton Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield and Jorge Luis Borges,
in J.M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
in Lloyd Alexander and Rosemary Sutcliff and The Golden Treasury Readers,
in J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman,
in Guy Davenport and Leslie Marmon Silko and Roberto Calasso,
in John Crowley and Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the epics:
in The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Aeneid,
in The Metamorphoses and The Argonautica and The Dionysiaca,
in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Enûma Eliš and The Shahnameh,
in The Mahabharata and The Ramayana and The Heike Monogatari,
in The Táin Bó Cúailnge and The Mabinogion and The Poems of Ossian,
in The Eddas and The Nibelungenlied and The Kalevala,
in Beowulf and Parzival and Le Morte d’Arthur,
in The Sundiata and The Popol Vuh and The Diné Bahane’,
in The Epic of King Gesar and The Lusiads and The Faerie Queene . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the classics:
in The Seven Sages and The Nine Lyric Poets and The Greek Anthology,
in Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripides,
in Aristophanes and Herodotus and Plutarch,
in Dante and Milton and Goethe,
in Rabelais and Voltaire and Oscar Wilde,
in The Harvard Classics, The Great Books Foundation and The Lifetime Reading Plan,
in The Western Canon and The Pāli Canon and The Global Literary Canon,
in The Norton Anthologies and The Longman Anthologies and The Heath Anthologies,
in the many shelves of anthologies and literary collections that line my home library . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the margins of literature:
in Anyte of Tegea and Claudia Trophime and Christine de Pizan,
in Nezahualcoyotl and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Phillis Wheatley,
in Wu Tsao and Mark Akenside and Richard Henry Horne,
in Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt and Skaay and Uvavnuk,
in Zitkala-Ša and Radclyffe Hall and María Sabina,
in Witter Bynner and Mary Butts and Adelaide Crapsey,
in Melvin B. Tolson and Aquah Laluah and Marguerite Young,
in Harold Norse and Kate Bornstein and Will Alexander,
in Leslie Feinberg and Werewere Liking and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the sacred texts:
in The Upanishads and The Bhagavad-Gita and The Dhammapada,
in The Lotus Sutra and The Pure Land Sutras and The Questions of Milinda,
in The Tao Te Ching and The I Ching and The Analects of Confucius,
in The Homeric Hymns and The Orphic Hymns and The Rig Veda,
in The Hermetica and The Chaldaean Oracles and Plato’s Timaeus,
in The Egyptian Book of the Dead and The Bardo Thodol and The Orphic Fragments,
in The Navajo Night Chant and The Odú Ifá and The Kumulipo,
in The Emerald Tablet and The Stanzas of Dzyan and Leland’s Aradia,
in Crowley’s Liber AL vel Legis, Yeats’s A Vision, and Jung’s Red Book . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the mythographers:
in (Pseudo) Apollodorus and Hyginus and Pausanias,
in Jane Ellen Harrison and Walter F. Otto and Karl Kerényi,
in James G. Frazer and Robert Graves and Giorgio de Santillana,
in Franz Cumont and E. A. Wallis Budge and Leo Frobenius,
in Hilda R. Ellis Davidson and Heinrich Zimmer and Joseph Campbell,
in Franz Boas and Thelma Adamson and Robert Bringhurst,
in Georges Dumézil and Jaan Puhvel and Alex Fantalov,
in Mircea Eliade and Michael Witzel and Wim van Binsbergen,
in the myths and legends and folklore from every land and every era . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the visual arts:
in Praxiteles and Michelangelo and Caravaggio,
in Antoine-Louis Barye and Katsushika Hokusai and William Blake,
in William Morris and Harriet Powers and Hosteen Klah,
in Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon and Erté,
in Evelyn de Morgan and Vincent Van Gogh and Séraphine de Senlis,
in Sonia Delaunay and Marsden Hartley and Frida Kahlo,
in Man Ray and Salvador Dalí and Joseph Cornell,
in Romare Bearden and Jess Collins and Herbert List,
in Ana Mendieta and Judy Chicago and Jean-Michel Basquiat . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in music:
in Hildegard von Bingen and Henry Purcell and Hector Berlioz,
in Frédéric Chopin and Fanny Mendelssohn and Richard Wagner,
in Gustav Holst and George Gershwin and Miles Davis,
in Édith Piaf and Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone,
in Miriam Makeba and Cesária Évora and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,
in John Lennon and Jim Morrison and Patti Smith,
in Brian Eno and Ryuichi Sakamoto and The Master Musicians of Jajouka,
in Sandy Denny and Kate Bush and Sainkho Namtchylak,
in The Cocteau Twins and Rozz Williams and Dead Can Dance . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in film:
in Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst and F.W. Murnau,
in Carl Dreyer and Charlie Chaplin and Jean Cocteau,
in Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles and Jean Renoir,
in Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa,
in Satyajit Ray and Michael Cacoyannis and Ousmane Sembène,
in Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Derek Jarman,
in Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage and Stanley Kubrick,
in David Lynch and Peter Greenaway and Jane Campion,
in Pedro Almodóvar and Julie Taymor and Darren Aronofsky . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in my fellow pagans and polytheists:
in H. Jeremiah Lewis and Sarah Kate Istra Winter and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus,
in Edward P. Butler and Kallimakhos and Lykeia,
in Isaac Bonewits and Ian Corrigan and Skip Ellison,
in Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova and Kveldulf Gundarsson,
in T. Thorn Coyle and Starhawk and Scott Cunningham,
in John Michael Greer and Poke Runyon and John Opsopaus,
in Alexei Kondratiev and Erynn Rowan Laurie and Ceisiwr Serith,
in Valiel Elentári and Brian A. Kenny and M.A. Rivera,
in all the bloggers and podcasters and columnists who inspire me daily . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the loved ones of my Grove:
in the poetry, music, art, cuisine, and impeccable taste of my beloved Star-Prince,
in the quilts and cloth sculptures and textile creations of my wonderful Mother,
in the writings and photography of my best friend and ally Pandora,
in the handmade jewelry and the amazing green thumb of Clover,
in the constant creativity and ingenuity and aesthetic sensibility of Scarlett,
in the quests and adventures and inventions devised by Will,
in the magnificent garden and the poems and countless talents of Pam,
in the homespun crafts and the illuminating astral charts of Capella,
in all the eccentric denizens of The Island of Misfit Toys . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Hellenic Gods:
in Hestia and Hera and Demeter,
in Zeus and Poseidon and Hades,
in Hermes and Apollon and Dionysos,
in Artemis and Persephone and Athena,
in Hephaestus and Aphrodite and Ares,
in Hekate and Pan and Gaia,
in Asklepios and Herakles and the Dioskouroi,
in the Muses and the Heroes and the Nymphs,
in the Olympians and the Titans and the Protogenoi and the entire Hellenic pantheon . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in all Deities:
in Thoth and Isis and Horus – and all the Gods of Egypt,
in Freyr and Heimdall and Loki – and all the Northern Gods,
in Brighid and Lugh and Sequana – and all the Gods of the Celts,
in Ganesha and Mitra-Varuna and Krishna – and all the Gods of India,
in She-Who-Watches and Raven and The Changer – and all the Gods of Cascadia,
in Perkūnas and Veles and Mari – and all the Gods of Old Europe,
in Antinoüs and Oya and The Rainbow Serpent – and all the Gods of the World,
in the Unnamed Gods and the Unknown Gods and the Gods of our Ancestors,
in All Members of All Pantheons, All Goddesses and All Gods . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Heroes and Heroines:
in Narkissos and Achilles and Patroclus,
in Orpheus and Abaris and Pythagoras,
in Harmodius and Aristogeiton and Diotima,
in Polydeukion and The Emperor Julian and Hypatia,
in the Sages and Teachers and Leaders,
in the Mystics and Prophets and Visionaries,
in the Poets and Artists and Scribes,
in the Musicians and Performers and Sacred Fools,
in The Men Who Loved Men, The Women Who Loved Women, and The Gender Nonconformists of all eras . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in my Ancestors:
in my maternal Grandmother – my second mother, who gave me the myths,
in my paternal Grandmother – my third mother, the storyteller and palm-reader,
in my two Grandfathers – my fathers, the gardener and the cowboy,
in my Aunt Vi and my Uncle Ray, whose spirits have guarded me since childhood,
in my Greek Great-Grandfather, born in Arcadia and buried beside his best friend,
in my Norwegian Great-Grandmother, the seer who was raised by a witch,
in my Irish ancestors, descendants of The Liberator, so many of whom died in the mines,
in my English ancestors, The Plantagenets, descendants of Queens and Kings,
in my Bohemian ancestors, my French ancestors, my African ancestors, and all my Blood-Kindred . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Spirits:
in my Agathos Daimon and The Torch-Bearers and our Household Lares,
in my childhood guardians – The Cat, The Owl and The Eagle,
in The Dandelion Faerie, The Pine White Butterfly and The Oreads of the Island,
in The Old Man of the Mountain, The Basket Ogress and The Rain-Makers,
in The Wounded Sentinel and The Nooksack River and The Salish Sea,
in The Thunderbird and The Sisiutl and the Stl’eluqum,
in the Elves and the Elementals and the Faerie Folk,
in the Spirit Guides and Animal Totems and Greenwights,
in all the Nymphs and Spirits and Daimones and Sidhe . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the animal kingdom:
in the Barn Owl and the Red-tailed Hawk and the Bald Eagle,
in the Raven and the Bluejay and the Hummingbird,
in the Seagull and the Cormorant and the Chickadee,
in the Mountain Lion and the Coyote and the Raccoon,
in the Black-tailed Deer and the Squirrel and the Rabbit,
in the House Cat and the Box Turtle and the Tree Frog,
in the Orca and the Salmon and the Jellyfish,
in the Butterfly and the Dragonfly and the Honey Bee,
in the Cricket and the Spider and the Ladybug . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the green world:
in the Douglas Fir and the Red Cedar and the Western Hemlock,
in the Grand Fir and the Bigleaf Maple and the Pacific Madrone,
in the Shore Pine and the Sitka Spruce and the Pacific Yew,
in the Quaking Aspen and the Paper Birch and the Willow,
in the Rhododendron and the Wild Hyacinth and the Blackberry Vine,
in the Stinging Nettle and the Sword Fern and the Bull-Head Kelp,
in the countless Mushrooms and Mosses and Lichens,
in the Fairy Slipper and the Pathfinder and the Forget-Me-Not,
in the Slender Hawkweed and the Hairy Cat’s-Ear and the Dandelion Puff . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the stars:
in the Sun and the Moon and the Milky Way,
in the Morning Star and the Evening Star and the Pole-Star,
in the Red Planet and the Jovian Planet and the Senex,
in the Messenger and the Magician and the Mystic,
in The Virgin and The Bull and The Twins,
in The Lion and The Eagle and The Dragon,
in The Bears and The Swan and The Lyre,
in The Hunter and The Dog-Star and The Seven Sisters,
in all the planets and constellations and celestial objects . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the symbolic teachings:
in The Fire, The Well and The Tree,
in Yin and Yang, The Two Substances and The Two Powers,
in The Three Realms, The Three Worlds and The Three Kindreds,
in the Four Noble Truths, the Five Elements and the Six Cardinal Directions,
in the Seven Chakras, the Seven Principles and the Twelve Natural Laws,
in the Neoplatonist Triads and Hebdomads and Dodecads,
in Gematria, the Zodiac, and the Planetary Spheres,
in the Runes and the Ogham and the Tarot,
in all the systems of esoteric correspondences created to comprehend the Ineffable . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in many spiritual traditions:
in Paganism and Polytheism and Animism,
in Hellenism and Heathenry and Kemeticism,
in Druidry and Witchcraft and Shamanism,
in Hermeticism and Neoplatonism and the Orphic Tradition,
in Buddhism and Taoism and Shinto,
in Vedanta and Theosophy and Transcendentalism,
in Devotional Polytheism and Local-Focus Polytheism and Eclectic Reconstructionism,
in Hard Polytheism and Polycentric Syncretism and Religious Pluralism,
in Classical Humanism and Romantic Modernism and Visionary Mysticism . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in ritual:
in my thrice-daily devotionals – morning and evening and night,
in the recitation and composition of hymns to the gods,
in burning incense and pouring libations at our household shrines,
in creating sacred space and raising magickal energy,
in trance journeys and astral dreaming and pathworking,
in meditation and mantram and prayer,
in the mask and the bonfire and the drum,
in offering a sacrifice, walking the labyrinth and dancing round a maypole,
in celebrating the lunar cycle, the festival calendar and The Wheel of the Year . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the simple things in life:
in a fresh-baked loaf of bread and a good bottle of wine,
in the sound of crashing waves and the patchwork colors of sunset,
in a pocket full of beach stones and the feel of rain on my face,
in a hike through the forest and the notes of birdsong,
in a potluck feast followed by a game of cards,
in the laughter of friends and the smile of a beautiful soul,
in a shelf of well-loved books and a notebook full of scribblings,
in a home-cooked meal and a table set with candles,
in curling up under a blanket and the kiss of my Beloved . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty all around me:
in the North and in the South,
in the East and in the West,
above me and below me,
before me and behind me,
and deep in the center within me.
I walk in wisdom.
I walk in inspiration.
I walk in beauty.
I walk in beauty . . .

Then through my dream the choir of gods was borne . . .

Gustave Moreau – Phaethon

The Fall of a Soul
 by John Addington Symonds (October 5, 1840 – April 19, 1893)

I sat unsphering Plato ere I slept:
Then through my dream the choir of gods was borne,
Swift as the wind and lustrous as the morn,
Fronting the night of stars; behind them swept
Tempestuous darkness o’er a drear descent,
Wherethrough I saw a crowd of charioteers
Urging their giddy steeds with cries and cheers
To join the choir that aye before them went:
But one there was who fell, with broken car
And horses swooning down the gulf of gloom;
Heavenward his eyes, though prescient of their doom,
Reflected glory like a falling star;
While with wild hair blown back and listless hands
Ruining he sank toward undiscovered lands.

 

Orphism and Orphica

Sonia Delaunay – Rhythm

Chords [Passages 14]
by Robert Duncan

For the Thing we call Moon contains
    “many mountains, many cities, many houses”
And Nature, our Mother,
    hides us, even from ourselves, there;
    showing only in changes of the Moon    •    Time
“a serpent having heads growing from him
    •    a bull and a lion,
                the face of a god-man in the middle,
    and he has also wings, and is calld
    ageless, Xronos, father of the ages,
                and Herakles”;
    is called Eros, Phanes, χρονος ευμαρης Θεος
having the seeds of all things in his body,
    Protogonos, Erikepaios, Dionysos    •   
These are the Names.    Wind Child,    ύπηνεμιον
                of our Night Nature
in the Moon Egg:        First-Born, Not-Yet-Born,
                Born-Where-We-Are    •    Golden Wings,
the unlookt for light in the aither
                gleaming    amidst clouds.
What does it mean that the Tritopatores, “doorkeepers and
    guardians of the winds”, carry the human Psyche to Night’s
    invisible palace,    to the Egg
                where Eros sleeps,
    the Protoegregorikos, the First Awakend?    To waken Him
          they carried her into    his Sleep,    the winds
disturbing the curtains at the window,    moving
          the blind, the first        tap tap,        the first count or
heart beat    •    the guardians of the winds (words)
          lifting her as the line lifts meanings and would
light the light,        the crack of dawn in the Egg
          Night’s nature shelters        before Time.
Before Time’s altars,        our Mother-Nature
          lighting the stars in order,        setting
Her night-light        in the wind the Egg will be.

    The breath of the stars, moving before the stars,
        breath of great Nature,        our own,        Logos,
                that is all        milk and light    •   
    These things reborn within Zeus,        happening anew.
“A dazzling light    .  .    aither    .  .    Eros    .  .    Night”
                where we are
The first being Fairyland,        the Shining Land.

Sonia Delaunay – Demi Cercles sur Bleue et Jaune

The Sonnets to Orpheus (Part II, Sonnet 29)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

Sonia Delaunay – Abstract Swirl

Instructions to the Orphic Adept
by Robert Graves

[In part translated from the Timpone Grande and Campagno Orphic tablets.]

So soon as ever your mazed spirit descends
From daylight into darkness, Man, remember
What you have suffered here in Samothrace,
What you have suffered.

After your passage through Hell’s seven floods,
Whose fumes of sulphur will have parched your throat,
The Halls of Judgement shall loom up before you,
A miracle of jasper and of onyx.
To the left hand there bubbles a black spring
Overshadowed with a great white cypress.
Avoid this spring, which is Forgetfulness;
Though all the common rout rush down to drink,
Avoid this spring!

To the right hand there lies a secret pool
Alive with speckled trout and fish of gold;
A hazel overshadows it. Ophion,
Primaeval serpent straggling in the branches,
Darts out his tongue. This holy pool is fed
By dripping water; guardians stand before it.
Run to this pool, the pool of Memory.
Run to this pool!

Then will the guardians scrutinize you, saying:
‘Who are you, who? What have you to remember?
Do you not fear Ophion’s flickering tongue?
Go rather to the spring beneath the cypress,
Flee from this pool!’

Then shall you answer: ‘I am parched with thirst.
Give me to drink. I am a child of Earth,
But of Sky also, come from Samothrace.
Witness the glint of amber on my brow.
Out of the Pure I am come, as you may see.
I also am of your thrice-blessèd kin,
Child of the three-fold Queen of Samothrace;
Have made full quittance for my deeds of blood,
Have been by her invested in sea-purple,
And like a kid have fallen into milk.
Give me to drink, now I am parched with thirst,
Give me to drink!’

But they will ask you yet: ‘What of your feet?’
You shall reply: ‘My feet have borne me here
Out of the weary wheel, the circling years,
To that still, spokeless wheel:–Persephone.
Give me to drink!’

Then they will welcome you with fruit and flowers,
And lead you toward the ancient dripping hazel,
Crying: ‘Brother of our immortal blood,
Drink and remember glorious Samothrace!’
Then you shall drink.

You shall drink deep of that refreshing draught,
To become lords of the uninitiated
Twittering ghosts, Hell’s countless populace–
To become heroes, knights upon swift horses,
Pronouncing oracles from tall white tombs
By the nymphs tended. They with honey water
Shall pour libations to your serpent shapes,
That you may drink.

Sonia Delaunay – Rhythm Color

H.D. aka Hilda Doolittle (September 10, 1886 – September 27, 1961)

On this day, in 1886, the poet Hilda Doolittle (aka H.D.), was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Of all the writers/poet-heroes I love and praise and revere, I can say without hesitation that H.D. is my favorite poet and visionary. I am utterly enthralled by her entire body of work, from the earliest Imagist poems to her final masterpiece, the book-length epic, Helen in Egypt. Along the way, she wrote novels (HERmione and Asphodel are the two closest to my heart), translated Euripides (Ion and Hippolytus), compiled memoirs/tributes to Sigmund Freud (she was one of his patients) and Ezra Pound (one of her closest friends, the pair were even briefly engaged), and set forth a mystical philosophy in Notes on Thought and Vision. Even her correspondence is fascinating.

Her most famous poem, below, was regarded as the perfect example of Imagism:

Oread
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Whirl up, sea –
Whirl your pointed pines,
Splash your great pines
On our rocks,
Hurl your green over us,
Cover us with your pools of fir.

***

Here’s Another brief poem in the same Imagist style:

The Pool
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you – banded one?

***

One of my favorite poems, the piece that instigated my H.D. obsession, is entitled “Eros.”

Eros
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

I.
Where is he taking us
now that he has turned back?

Where will this take us,
this fever,
spreading into light?

Nothing we have ever felt,
nothing we have dreamt,
or conjured in the night
or fashioned in loneliness,
can equal this.

Where is he taking us,
Eros,
now that he has turned back?

II.
My mouth is wet with your life,
my eyes blinded with your face,
a heart itself which feels
the intimate music.

My mind is caught,
dimmed with it,
(where is love taking us?)
my lips are wet with your life.

In my body were pearls cast,
shot with Ionian tints, purple,
vivid through the white.

III.
Keep love and he wings
with his bow,
up, mocking us,
keep love and he taunts us
and escapes.

Keep love and he sways apart
in another world,
outdistancing us.

Keep love and he mocks,
ah, bitter and sweet,
your sweetness is more cruel
than your hurt.

Honey and salt,
fire burst from the rocks
to meet fire
spilt from Hesperus.

Fire darted aloft and met fire,
and in that moment
love entered us.

IV.
Could Eros be kept,
he was prisoned long since
and sick with imprisonment,
could Eros be kept,
others would have taken him
and crushed out his life.

Could Eros be kept,
we had sinned against the great god,
we too might have prisoned him outright.

Could Eros be kept,
nay, thank him and the bright goddess
that he left us.

V.
Ah love is bitter and sweet,
but which is more sweet
the bitterness or the sweetness,
none has spoken it.

Love is bitter,
but can salt taint sea-flowers,
grief, happiness?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he crave it?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your lover if he wish it
for a new favourite,
who can say,
or is it sweet?

Is it sweet to possess utterly,
or is it bitter,
bitter as ash?

VI.
I had thought myself frail,
a petal
with light equal
on leaf and under-leaf.

I had thought myself frail;
a lamp,
shell, ivory or crust of pearl,
about to fall shattered,
with flame spent.

I cried:

“I must perish,
I am deserted in this darkness,
an outcast, desperate,”
such fire rent me with Hesperus,

Then the day broke.

VII.
What need of a lamp
when day lightens us,
what need to bind love
when love stands
with such radiant wings over us?

What need–
yet to sing love,
love must first shatter us.

***

The following lines have been a great source of comfort in times of despair:

Excerpt from “The Tribute” (Section 10)
by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

And this we will say for remembrance,
speak this with their names:

Could beauty be done to death,
they had struck her dead
in ages and ages past,
could beauty be withered from earth,
they had cast her forth,
root and stalk
scattered and flailed—

They had trod her to death with sneers,
they had bartered her
for a piece of thin money tossed up
to fall half alloy,
they had stripped her and sent her forth.

Could beauty be caught and hurt,
could beauty be rent with a thought,
for a thrust of a sword,
for a piece of thin money tossed up
then beauty were dead.

Long, long before we came to earth,
long, long before we rent our hearts
with this worship, this fear
and this dread.

***

H.D.’s ability to express her depth of emotions (which includes achingly beautiful love poems written to men and to women), her crystalline clarity (her “hard, gem-like flame”), her musical rhythms, her passion for ancient Greece, her immersion in all things esoteric, and her entangled web of connections to other modernist writers/artists are just a few of the reasons I adore her work. Her words are a continuing source of inspiration, and I can honestly say she’s kept me going me through some dark periods in my life. I’ve long felt like our souls are connected in some way. And after being ignored and marginalized for decades, she’s finally becoming more widely recognized as a writer of canonical stature.  Her work should be of especial interest to pagans, especially those interested in Hellenic, Kemetic, and Greco-Egyptian paganism/polytheism.

The primary page for more information on H.D. can be found here, and there’s a nice introduction to her life and work (including the texts of several poems and and part of an audio recording of H.D. reading from Helen in Egypt) here.

***

A Few Quotes by H.D.

“Actually, they are both occupied with the thought of reconstruction, he ‘to re-claim the coast of Pharos, the light-house,’ she to establish or re-establish the ancient Mysteries.”
– H.D., from Helen in Egypt, Pallinode IV.8

“Today, again at a turning-point in the history of the world, the mind stands, to plead, to condone, to explain, to clarify, to illuminate; and, in the name of our magnificent heritage of that Hellenic past, each one of us is responsible to that abstract reality; silver and unattainable yet always present, that spirit again stands holding the balance between the past and the future. What now will we make of it?”
– H.D., from Ion, part XIX

“The Delphic charioteer has, I have said, an almost hypnotic effect on me: the bend of his arm, the knife-cut of his chin; his feet, rather flat, slightly separated, a firm pedestal for himself; the fall of his drapery, in geometrical precision; and the angles of the ingatherings of the drapery of the waist.

All this was no ‘inspiration,’ it was sheer, hard brain work.

This figure has been created by a formula arrived at consciously or unconsciously.

If we had the right sort of brains, we would receive a definite message from that figure, like dots and lines ticked off by one receiving station, received and translated into definite thought by another telegraphic centre.

There is no trouble about art. There is already enough beauty in the world of art, enough in the fragments and almost perfectly preserved charioteer at Delphi alone to remake the world.

There is no trouble about the art, it is the appreciators we want. We want young men and women to communicate with the charioteer and his like.

We want receiving centres for dots and dashes.”

– H.D., from Notes on Thought and Vision

peril, strangely encountered, strangely endured,
marks us;

we know each other
by secret symbols,

though, remote, speechless,
we pass each other on the pavement,

at the turn of the stair;
though no word pass between us,

there is subtle appraisement;
even if we snarl a brief greeting

or do not speak at all,
we know our Name,

we nameless initiates,
born of one mother,

companions
of the flame.

– H.D., from “The Walls Do Not Fall”

We are voyagers, discoverers
of the not-known,
the unrecorded;
we have no map;
possibly we will reach haven,
heaven.
― H.D., from “The Walls Do Not Fall”

Ezra Pound’s Religio or, The Child’s Guide to Knowledge

Religio
or, The Child’s Guide to Knowledge
by Ezra Pound

What is a god?
A god is an eternal state of mind.
What is a faun?
A faun is an elemental creature.
What is a nymph?
A nymph is an elemental creature.
When is a god manifest?
When the states of mind take form.
When does a man become a god?
When he enters one of these states of mind.
What is the nature of the forms whereby a god is manifest?
They are variable but retain certain distinguishing characteristics.
Are all eternal states of mind gods?
We consider them to be so.
Are all durable states of mind gods?
They are not.
By what characteristic may we know the divine forms?
By beauty.
And if the presented forms are unbeautiful?
They are demons.
If they are grotesque?
They may be well-minded genii.
What are the kinds of knowledge?
There are immediate knowledge and hearsay.
Is hearsay of any value?
Of some.
What is the greatest hearsay?
The greatest hearsay is the tradition of the gods.
Of what use is this tradition?
It tells us to be ready to look.
In what manner do gods appear?
Formed and formlessly.
To what do they appear when formed?
To the sense of vision.
And when formless?
To the sense of knowledge.
May they when formed appear to anything save the sense of vision?
We may gain a sense of their presence as if they were standing behind us.
And in this case they may possess form?
We may feel that they do possess form.
Are there names for the gods?
The gods have many names. It is by names that they are handled in the tradition.
Is there harm in using these names?
There is no harm in thinking of the gods by their names.
How should one perceive a god, by his name?
It is better to perceive a god by form, or by the sense of knowledge, and after perceiving him thus, to consider his name or to “think what god it may be.”
Do we know the number of the gods?
It would be rash to say that we do. A man should be content with a reasonable number.
What are the gods of this rite?
Apollo, and in some sense Helios, Diana in some of her phases, also the Cytherean goddess.
To what other gods is it fitting, in harmony or in adjunction with these rites, to give incense?
To Kore and to Demeter, also to lares and to oreiads and to certain elemental creatures.
How is it fitting to please these lares and other creatures?
It is fitting to please and to nourish them with flowers.
Do they have need of such nutriment?
It would be foolish to believe that they have, nevertheless it bodes well for us that they should be pleased to appear.
Are these things so in the east?
This rite is made for the West.

The 39th Day

for Annabel Lee

Within the House of Hades
An Orphic Fragment

Your soul has departed.
You arrive at a well-spring,
beneath a white cypress,
upon your left side.
Don’t drink of this water,
the water of Lethe.
You’ll forget your whole lifetime,
forget that you’ve died.

Over there,
to your right,
is the Well-Spring of Memory.
The water is icy,
fast-flowing, and yet —
you must drink of this water,
this fast-flowing water.
Remember your lifetime.
Don’t ever forget.

Because the Truth is in His Eyes – “A Canticle of Bacchus” by Witter Bynner

The following poem is a lovely and insightful tribute to Dionysos/Bacchus (and Silenus) by the great gay poet Witter Bynner (who is also my favorite translator of the Tang Dynasty poets  [Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, etc.] and the Tao Teh Ching).  The rhyme may at first seem a bit too sing-song-y for an early 20th-century modernist like Bynner, but I think you’ll see it works perfectly to capture this charming, light-hearted and yet also quite profound scene of “The most beloved boy / Who ever danced among the leaves /Of elemental joy”.  I love that Silenus makes a toast to Socrates, and the clever incorporation of “Auld Lang Song” by Robert Burns as an appropriate drinking song/folk song for the modern characters to honor “the merry god of vine-leaves”.  If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least have a look at the incredible speech by Bacchus (which I’ve marked in bold below), in which Bacchus asserts that he is the apple on the Tree of Knowledge, equating himself with choice, freedom, and free will in general.  Enjoy!

I am a godly companion,
A touchstone and a test,
And who chooses with the other gods
Bacchus — chooses best.
For what is life itself but wine,
And what am I but life?

[p.s. If you like this and want to enjoy many, many, many other literary representations of Dionysos throughout the ages, please go check out Sannion’s wonderful blog, Eternal Bacchus: Dionysos from the end of antiquity to the present.]

****************************

A Canticle of Bacchus
by Witter Bynner

(The First and Second Cantors stand at either side of the stage. Bacchus enters, concealing with a vine-draped arm all of his face below the eyes)

The First Cantor
Why hide your face with vines, lad?
Why stand mysterious?
Show your face and tell us why
And what you want of us.
I wonder if I know you, lad.
I’ve seen your eyes before.
There s a glow in them as genial
As an opening door
With a yellow light behind it
And a handshake and a song
And a welcome to a fellowship
Where happy folk belong.
I wonder why your presence,
Half-hidden, seems to be
The reaching of the redwoods,
The slipping of the sea
And the swaying of the heart of wine
Within the heart of me.
Lad, are you the merry god
Of vine-leaves?

Bacchus (showing his face)
I am he.
Though not so merry nowadays
As I dared to be
In the days of Alexander,
I am Bacchus, I am he
Whom young men choose, old wives chastise
And solemn men abhor,
Because the truth is in my eyes,
Because my mother bore
A light and easy soothsayer,
Natural and wild,
Fierce and happy as the sun,
When Bacchus was her child.
I stole the grapes from her other hand,
She pretended not to look,
And the heat of my fingers turned them to wine
And that was the milk I took,
Till I grew and flourished and became
The most beloved boy
Who ever danced among the leaves
Of elemental joy.
And everybody laughed my name
And pulse was never quicker
Than when the unforbidden hills
Blessed the world with liquor
And everybody drank it
And everybody knew
Festival-hymns and holiday-tunes . . .

The First Cantor
Here are singers too!
“For he’s a jolly good fellow—”
Sing to him — all of you!

The Company (singing and concluding)
“For he’s a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny.”

Bacchus
And how can a jolly good fellow
Bear to say good-bye?
O let me pledge you in a drink
Before I hide my face!

The Second Cantor (refusing the proffered cup)
No, thank you. You have earned too well
Your measure of disgrace.

Bacchus
And who are you who will not drink?

Silenus (entering eagerly)
By the gods, I’ll take his cup!

The First Cantor
He s a tale-telling teetotaller.

Silenus
A meddler and a pup!

The Second Cantor (to Bacchus, indicating Silenus)
Look well at him, if you wonder why
I spurn what you propose —
At the purple viney pattern
Of the veining of his nose!
He followed you and the dryads,
He dreamed a dream in his youth,
And his house has tumbled about him
In ashes — that’s the truth!

Silenus
What do I want of houses
While a cave holds off a storm?
And what do I want of a hearthstone
While there’s wine to keep me warm?

The Second Cantor
You had a wife who pleaded,
With children at her knees!

Silenus
My wife was like Xantippe,
Who scolded Socrates
When he went the way of drinking men
With Alcibiades —
When he went the way of thinking men
And dodged the homely pot,
As I have dodged the missiles
Of the whole confounded lot.
Sir, can you quote me wisdom
From men who never tipple
That has made a stir in the world like his?
No, sir — not a ripple! —
So here’s to poets, philosophers,
By all the seven seas,
Greek, Roman, Gallic, British, Dutch
And Persian and Chinese!
Though it double me rheumatic —
Here’s to Socrates!

Bacchus
You it is, with disregard
Of measure and time and place,
Who have brought on both of us this day
Of exile and disgrace,
Yet, Silenus, you’re forgiven,
For I’d rather live in a hut
Away from all my friends but you
Than have had you learn to shut
A virtuous mouth like a trap for birds
And a fist like a purse for squeeze —
You’ve an open mouth and hand and heart,
And they have none of these.

The Second Cantor
Are you meaning me?

Bacchus
Yes, even you,
Too careful to be bold.
Before you take a step, you look,
Before you’re young, you’re old.
Before you think in your own terms,
You think in other people’s
And stilt your life as orderly
As pulpits and as steeples.
What can the ocean mean to you,
Draining the shore,
And the wind that drinks the redwoods
And waves its arms for more,
And the dogs that romp in the flowers,
And the cats that sing in the alleys,
And the skylarks in the zenith,
And the waterfalls in the valleys?
In this happy, crooked, drunken world
How you can bid us go
As dry as dust and as straight as a corpse
To a graveyard, I don’t know.

The Second Cantor
Do the dogs and the cats and the skylarks
Need booze to make them gay?

Silenus
What about cats and catnip?

Bacchus
Men need more than they! . . .
O the fruit of the tree of knowledge
Was a liquor on the tree —
And when they chose the apple,
Adam and Eve chose me!
And the children of Jehovah,
As well as the children of Zeus,
Were the better for their knowledge
When the godhead turned them loose.
For there’s nothing so sure as freedom
To make the heart rejoice.
The happiness of manhood,
The guerdon of life — is choice!
And a road that is rough is smoother,
So be it the road you choose,
Than a smooth road chosen for you
Where what you win you lose . . .
I am a godly companion,
A touchstone and a test,
And who chooses with the other gods
Bacchus — chooses best.
For what is life itself but wine,
And what am I but life?
And they who cut our kinship
Use a deadly knife.
And even he who, reckless,
Comes too close to a god
Is wiser than he who numbers his bones
To fertilize the sod . . .
Hear the truth from Bacchus —
My blood is spring in the veins,
And he who would deny the spring
Shall perish for his pains . . .

Silenus
There s a place in the woods where wild apples grow
And the feet of young Bacchus shall tread them,
And if venturers find us, they’ll ask us when they go
What nectar it is we have fed them.
We shall hew a rock-hollow and seal it with clay
And mark it with Bacchus’s fillet —
Wild honey and attar of roses and hay
Shall sweeten our wine and distill it.

Bacchus (moving slowly away with Silenus)
There where the sun sets, winey in the mountains,
There where the moon uplifts her frosty cup,
Bacchus shall come and free the merry fountains
And drink the winter down and the springtide up.
And a welcome shall well there for fortunate companions,
From Silenus or from Bacchus, whichever you prefer.
We shall crown you and lead you through the wildgrape canyons
And comfort you with apples and laugh at the cur
Who would harry at your heels and snarl the woods about you,
We shall hear him faintly barking beyond the happy peaks.
Exile is sweet when fools are left without you
And the wild wine of wisdom is the color in your cheeks.
You may learn there of nature, as Bacchus has learned,
How hemlock is deadlier than grapes are to quaff,
Or if you never find us, or have left us and returned,
You still shall hear us echoing the sound of your laugh . . .

So remember us and praise us, though the time be long,
And sing a song of other days when Bacchus came and went.
And so the heart of Bacchus shall be happy in your song
And the foot of Bacchus steal within your tent.
For you who once have known me never can forget me.
Your other friends are mortal, Bacchus is divine.
Now for a little while evil days beset me . . .
But sing me into exile “for auld lang syne”!

The Company (singing, as Bacchus and Silenus leave them)
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And never brought to mind,
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And the days of auld lang syne?”

(Even the Second Cantor joining, with a cup)
“For auld lang syne, my boys,
“For auld lang syne,
“We’ll take a cup and drink it up,
“To the days of auld lang syne.”

Pagan in Paris: A Pagan Guide to The Louvre Museum

At this moment I am sitting on the balcony of a 12th-century chateau in the south of France, near the fortified city of Carcassone, in the middle of Cathar Country.  Swallows chirp and circle in the air over a beautiful vineyard.  Next door is a little park with Gallo-Roman grave monuments.  Wildstar and I are hosting a ten-person wine tour of the Langue d’oc region, visiting the vineyards of several amazing wine-makers, with side trips to villages in the surrounding area.  We’ve been incredibly busy so far, but our wi-fi is working and I must talk about the focus of my second day in Paris last week:  The Musée de Louvre.

The Louvre Museum is one of the most impressive museums in the world.  Frankly, it can be downright overwhelming as there is so much to see.  When we lived in Paris (from 2000-2005), I was blessed to be in my early 20s and therefore eligible to purchase the Louvre Carte Jeune, which was only 100 franc (later 20 euro) per year, and allowed anyone under the age of 28 to visit the Louvre at any time, bypass the line, and even visit the museum when it was otherwise closed to the public.  The Louvre became my second home.  I visited at least once a week, often more, where I would sit in the galleries and write (I wrote most of my first novel in this sublime environment).  This also afforded me ample opportunities to spend an entire day in a single room or section, enjoying the art at a leisurely pace, and most importantly (as a pagan), taking time to commune with the statues and pay homage to the deities and heroes they represent.

Which is not to say that it’s easy being a pagan at the Louvre.  So many of the classical sculptures are so impressive that one can’t help but feeling moved to pour a libation of wine onto the ground, leave an offering, or perform a full ritual before the sacred image.  Obviously, in a crowded public museum, with security guards and cameras everywhere, this is virtually impossible.  So we need to be creative, and instead find other more appropriate ways to honor the gods.  I call what I do “communing with the statues.”  I’m not sure if I can accurately describe something so intuitive and non-rational, but if you can understand the feeling of sitting on a beach or in a forest and “communing with nature,” then you can perhaps comprehend my process of communing with the statues.  These “objects” (and I use quotes here because they are so much more than that) are sacred images of the divine goddesses and gods.  They were created by artists who believed in the gods, who were capable of honing their creativity and skill to give a material form to their own visions of the divine.  The same feeling of reverence, the overwhelming shock of the sublime that I often feel in a beautiful landscape, is akin to my feeling for these statues.  And even in a crowded public place, that feeling can be shaped into a sacred moment, a genuine spiritual experience, in which we can communicate with and honor the gods.

I will often tune out the surrounding chatter and stand before a statue in silent prayer.  If there is a nearby bench in the room, I can sit in quiet contemplation, perhaps writing down my thoughts and impressions of the statue.  Artists may feel compelled to make a sketch of the statue, while my fellow poets may want to compose a hymn.  And there is nothing comparable to praying before one of these ancient statues, knowing that they are mediums between this world and the gods, and that you are not the only soul to have gazed upon the beauty of this human creation and perceived a glimpse of the divine.

If you are a pagan and have a chance to visit the Louvre, here are a few tips:

1.         You are not going to see everything.  It’s physically impossible.  The Louvre is the largest and most visited museum in the world.  I spent almost five years visiting the Louvre on a weekly basis and I still haven’t seen everything.  If you try to see too much in one visit, or spend too long without taking a break for lunch (or just a repose), you will become overwhelmed.  It’s almost too much beauty for the human mind and soul to take in at once. The sooner you accept this fact, the more enjoyable and positive your experience will be.  To put things in perspective, there are over 380,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection (which doesn’t include rotating temporary exhibits).  If you wanted to spend one minute looking at every object, you would need to visit the Louvre for ten solid hours every day for nearly two years before you could see everything in the museum’s primary collection.  And considering you could spend hours contemplating a single painting or statue . . . you see the quandary.  You need to have realistic expectations and not get upset when you can’t see everything.

2.         Take your time.  Since you have accepted the fact that you cannot see everything, there’s no need to rush.  It would be better to take a few minutes (or longer) to truly appreciate and contemplate a single statue (or painting or objet d’art) than to rush through an entire room so that you can “see everything” without really taking anything in at all.  It’s like skimming a good book.  I have seen tourists (often my fellow Americans unfortunately) with a video camera pointing to the side at the walls, while they race forward, not actually looking at anything.  I don’t get it!  It would be better to just buy a few postcards, or art books, or even just look at high-quality images online!  A friend of mine used to tell a horror story about once witnessing an American mother and child at the Louvre.  The mother was a stereotypical American tourist (I’ll let your imagination fill in the aesthetically unpleasant details . . . I like to imagine the requisite fanny pack, stretch pants, cowboy hat, and the culturally offensive “Texas is bigger than France” t-shirt.  I think it was David Sedaris who asked, “Why do Americans visit other countries dressed like they’re there to mow the lawn?”).  She was rushing through the Louvre at a breakneck speed, with a video camera in one hand, dragging her poor child (a little boy of about eight or nine) in the other.  When the little boy stopped and said, “Mom!  Wait!  Look!  It’s the Mona Lisa!”, his ogress of a mother slapped him on the behind and barked, “You can see it on the video when we get home!”  Obviously, this is horrific on so many levels.  So take your time to contemplate and enjoy these sublime works of art, these cultural treasures, these pinnacles of human achievement.  Don’t be an ogress.

3.         Focus.  Choose a general area/topic to focus upon on your visit, perhaps two if you are feeling ambitious and have both the stamina and willingness to take a break when you’re tired.  If you are pagan, the three primary collections you will probably most enjoy (from a spiritual standpoint) are  The Department of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Antiquities, The Department of Egyptian Antiquities, and The Department of Near Eastern Antiquities.  That being said, the Italian Renaissance paintings and sculptures are justly famous, and many (especially the sculptures) involve classical themes.  And many of the large-scale 18th and 19th-century neoclassical French paintings will also be of interest to Hellenists and Latinists.  The Dutch masters, Napoleon’s opulent salon, and sections on subjects ranging from Islamic Art to the Medieval Decorative Arts are all valuable and worth seeing.  But there’s just not time to do everything.  So pick a department or two, perhaps find a few specific works of art you definitely want to see, and plan your route in advance.  To give you one example, last week I spent over six hours at the Louvre (which is honestly more than I would recommend for most people) and I only saw a small portion of the Greek and Roman Antiquities collection (not even half) and nothing else.

4.         Be aware that the items on display are constantly changing.  The Louvre collection is so huge that everything cannot possibly be on display at the same time.  Many amazing and important works of art are on loan to other museums, in storage, or located in a hall that is closed or under renovation.  This is *especially* true of the Greek and Roman antiquities section.  Due to room closures and renovation, right now *less than half* of the classical sculptures that were on display twelve years ago are on display now.  This means that many significant works of art are just not available.  I was honestly shocked during this visit to see so many room closures, with several giant halls of precious statues wrapped in plastic and unavailable to the public, including many, many iconic statues of the gods.  So try not to be too disappointed if the Ares Borghese or Braschi Antinous are nowhere to be seen.

All that being said, here are some highlights from my visit last week.  This post is fairly enormous, so I’m going to spare you the commentary and just put up photos.  As I’ve said previously, I am not a photographer, so all of these photographs (and accompanying descriptions, which vary in quality and detail) are from the Wikimedia Commons.

Statue of the type of Apollo Sauroctonus (lizard-killer). Roman copy from the AD 1st century (?) after a Greek original of ca. 350 BC with 17th and 18th century restaurations. Found in Rome, 17th century (?).

Artemis of the Rospigliosi type. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial Era, 1st–2nd centuries AD. Copy of a Greek original, maybe the bronze group mentioned by Pausanias (I, 25, 2), which represented a gigantomachia.

Artemis with a hind, better known as “Diana of Versailles”. Marble, Roman artwork, Imperial Era (1st-2nd centuries CE). Found in Italy.

The three Graces. Marble, Roman copy of the Imperial Era (2nd century AD?) after a Hellenistic original. Restored for a large part in 1609 by Nicolas Cordier (1565-1612) for Cardinal Borghese.

Drunken Silenus. Parian marble, Roman artwork of the 2nd century CE. May be inspired by the Pouring Satyr by Praxiteles.

Sleeping Hermaphroditus. Hermaphroditus: Greek marble, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, restored in 1619 by David Larique; mattress: Carrara marble, made by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1619 on Cardinal Borghese’s request.

Statue of Aphrodite, known as the Venus of Arles. Hymettus marble, Roman artwork, imperial period (end of the 1st century BC), might be a copy of the Aphrodite of Thespiae by Praxiteles. The apple and the mirror were added during the 17th century. Found in the antic theatre of Arles, France.

Nymph with a shell. Marble, Roman copy of the 1st century CE after the known Hellenistic type of a young girl playing a game of knuckle-bones. The head is antique but does not belong to the statue; left arm, right hand and shell are modern restorations, altering the original type.

Apollo, Roman copy of the Kassel type (original ca. 450 BC). Pentelic marble, early 2nd century AD (?), found in Italy.

Asclepios, god of medicine. Marble, Roman copy (2nd century CE) of a Greek original of the early 4th century BC, restored by the workshop of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (?) in the 18th century. Found in Italy.

So-called “Velletri Pallas”: Helmeted Athena. Marble with traces of red colour, Roman copy of the 1st century CE after a bronze original of the 5th century. Found in 1797 in the ruins of a Roman villa near Velletri.

Capitoline Venus, after the Aphrodite of Cnidus. Marble, Roman artwork of the Imperial Era (2nd century CE). From Rome.

Crouching Aphrodite. Marble, Roman variant of the Imperial Era after a Hellenistic type: the goddess is raising her left hand towards her neck whereas the protype used to cross her arms on her breast.

Dancing satyr from the group “Invitation to the dance”. Roman copy (1st-2nd century CE) of a hellenistic original (2nd century BC) known by coins of Cyzicus (Asia Minor) and numerous copies (such as Louvre Ma 528). Found in Rome in 1630, it was heavily restored: a large part of the arms and legs, the cymbals and the tree trunk are modern. It seems that the satyr originally was beating time, snapping fingers in rhythm and using a kind of Greek castanets with his foot.

Eros stringing his bow. From the ruins of the Imperial Palace on the Palatine Hill, Rome.

Statue of Hermes. The identification is secured by the fragment of caduceus held in the left hand and the small holes bored into the hair to support small wings (now lost). Roman copy of the Imperial Era after a bronze original of the late classicism.

Portrait of Homer, known as Homer Caetani. Pentelic marble, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Greek original of the 2nd century BC. From the Palazzo Caetani in Rome.

Lycian Apollo. Roman copy (Imperial era) of a Greek original.

Apollo carrying his kithara holds a phiale (flat cup) for Nike (Victory) to pour a libation in; they are standing on both sides of the omphalos. Marble, Roman copy of the late 1st century CE after a neo-Attic original of the Hellenistic era.

Nike (Victory) offering an egg to a snake entwined around a column topped with the Palladion; a warrior wearing helmet and armour has laid down his shield at the feet of the trophy and stands in a contemplative posture. Marble, Roman copy of the late 1st century AD after a neo-Attic original of the Hellenistic era.

Dramatic poet receiving drunken Dionysos, escorted by maenads and satyrs. Probably a votive relief dedicated by the winner of a theatrical contest. Marble, Roman copy (1st-2nd century CE) of a hellenistic original (late 2nd century BC?), found in Rome.

Young satyr playing the flute. Roman work of the 1st-2nd century CE . From Italy.

Silenus holding the child Dionysos. Marble, Roman copy of the 1st–2nd century CE after a Greek original of the late 4th century BC. From the Horti Sallustiani in Rome, 16th century.

Hermes agoraios and the Charites, relief of the Passage of Theori, from the agora of Thasos. Thasian marble with traces of polychromy on Hermes’ shoes and bronze ornaments (Hermes’ caduceus, fibulae), ca. 480 BC. Inscription: “To the Charites one may not sacrifice goat nor pig”.

Male torso, Parian marble, ca. 480 BC–470 BC, found in Miletus.

Athena of the Hope-Farnese type. Marble, Roman copy from the 1st–2nd centuries AD after a Greek original, probably the late 5th century BC bronze cult-statue of Athena Itonia (near Koroneia) by Agoracritos, described by Pausanias (IX, 34, 1). The antique head, of the Mattei type, does not belong to the statue.

Athena of the Athena Parthenos type. Parian marble (body) and Pentelic marble (head), Roman copy from the 1st–2nd century AD after the 5th century BC original.

Statue of an ephebe, traditionnally identified as Narcissus or Hyacinthus. Marble, Roman copy from ca. 100 AD after a Greek original of the late 5th century BC. Found in Italy

Statue of a youth with Phrygian cap, identified as Paris. Marble, Roman copy from the 2nd century AD after a Greek original. Found by Gavin Hamilton at Villa Adriana in Tivoli, 1769.

Dioscurus wearing the pilos, marble. From the northern area of the circus of Carthage.

Adonis. Marble, antique torso restored and completed by Duquesnoy.

Antinous as Aristaeus, god of the gardens. Bought in Rome in the 17th century by Cardinal Richelieu for his collections.

Statue of Dionysus. Marble, 2nd century CE (some restorations in the 17th century).

Bust of Antinous (117–138 CE). Modern copy after an original coming from the villa Adriana now in the Prado Museum.

Colossal portrait of Anrtinoos. The eyes and the attribute on the top of the head (uraeus or lotus flower?) were added on later. The bust was inserted into a body of a different material.

Statue of a goddess, probably Juno, restored as Urania. Marble, 2nd century AD (nose, mouth, neck, arms and feet are modern restorations).

Altar of the twelve gods. Original in Louvre, cast in Pushkin museum. Use unknown: maybe the brink of a well or an Zodiac altar. The object represents the twelve gods of the Roman pantheon, each identified by an attribute: Venus and Mars linked by Cupid, Jupiter and a lightning bolt, Minerva wearing a helmet, Apollo, Juno and her sceptre, Neptune and his trident, Vulcan and his sceptre, Mercury and his caduceus, Vesta, Diana and her quiver and Ceres. Marble, found in Gabii (Italy), 1st century CE.

Statue of Dionysus. Marble, 2nd century CE (arms and legs were heavily restored in the 18th century), found in Italy.

Narcissus, also known as the “Mazarini Hermaphroditus” or the “Genie of eternal rest”. The statue is composed of an antique funeral bust and of an antique lower part, assembled in modern times. Marble, 3rd century CE.

Statue of a male deity known as “Jupiter of Smyrna”. Found in 1670 in Smyrna (now İzmir in Turkey), the statue was brought to Louis XIV and restored as a Zeus ca. 1686 by Pierre Granier, who added the arm raising the thunderbolt. Marble, middle 2nd century CE.

Relief known as “the three Tyches”—Tyche is the Greek goddess of Fortune; since the Hellenistic period, each city has its own Tyche, represented with a crown of ramparts. This relief, found at the Via Appia, is known since the 18th century and belonged to the Borghese collections. It may come from the Triopius, the funeral complex built by Herodes Atticus for his wife Annia Regilla. Marble, ca. 160 CE.

Bust of Antinous as Dionysos; small holes bored into the hair used to support a metal ivy wreath. Marble, ca. 130 BC, origin unknown.

Mithras killing a sacred bull (tauroctony), side A of a two-faced Roman marble relief, ca. 2nd or 3rd century AD.

Side B (reverse) of a two-sided Mithraic relief. Found at Fiano Romano, near Rome “couché dans un petit réduit de briques” in 1926. White marble (H. 62cm, W. 67 cm, D. 16 cm) on a travertine base (H. 10cm, W. 76cm, D. 50cm). 2nd-3rd century.

This (reverse) face of the monument depicts a banquet scene. In the middle, a bull’s hide, of which the head and one hindleg are visible. Sol and Mithras recline on its side by side. Mithras holds a torch in his left hand and extends his right hand behind Sol. Sol is dressed only in a cape, fastened on his right shoulder with a fibula. Around Sol’s head is a crown of eleven rays. He holds a whip in his left hand and extends the right towards a torchbearer who offers him a rhyton. In the lower right is another torchbearer, with raised torch in his left hand. In his right hand, a caduceus held into the water emerging from the ground. In the middle, an altar in the coils of a crested snake. In the upper left corner, Luna in a cloud, looking away. Traces of red paint on the attire of Sol, Mithras and the torchbearers.

**********************

I am returning to the Louvre next Monday when we get back to Paris, and there’s one thing I wanted to ask all my pagan friends out there:  Any messages or prayer requests you would like me to make to the gods on your behalf?  As I tried to explain above, I spend time communing with the statues.  And every time I saw a statue of Antinous, I couldn’t help but take a moment and communicate to the statue (and consequently the god): “Antinous, I honor you. And I know someone named P. Sufenas Virius Lupus who honors you!  And I know someone named Kallimakhos who honors you!  May they be blessed.”  Whenever I saw a statue of Dionysos (or a member of his retinue), I said something similar on behalf of Sannion and Dver.  Likewise, at statues of Apollon on behalf of Dver, Lykeia, and Kallimakhos.  At statues of Zeus, I thought of Melia.  At statues of Eros, I thought of Ruadhan.  At the bust of Serapis, I thought of Edward (because of his gravatar!).  Artemis reminds me of Brendan.  At various altars of the Twelve Olympians I thought of many of you.  Thetis and various sea nymphs remind me of my mom.  I prayed and made a request to Asclepius on behalf of my friend Scarlett.  And so forth . . .

I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to do this, but it felt right, and I hope my actions didn’t offend anyone.  It’s just that there are so many of my fellow pagans out there, scattered all over the world, whose blogs and websites I enjoy, whose words (and songs and art) inspire me, and who I wish could have been there with me at the Louvre, honoring the gods together (even though I haven’t met very many of you yet!).  It’s not like the Louvre is a cathedral where I can light a candle in your name, so I took quite a few moments on this visit to think of you all and to send a personal message to the gods on your behalf (via these sacred statues), simply asking the gods to send you blessings.  If I overstepped, I sincerely apologize, as my intentions were positive!

Since I am returning next Monday, is there anyone out there reading this who would like me to “send a message” or make a prayer request to any specific deities (or heroes/heroines) on their behalf?  I would be honored to do so.  I’m not claiming to have any more or less of a connection to the gods than anyone else, and please let me be clear that I am *not* implying that we need ancient statues, temples, or anything special whatsoever to communicate with the deities.  The gods are always there, and I know they hear us.  It’s just that there’s something especially charged about these statues, and like I said earlier, it feels right.

I will mostly be in the Greek & Roman Antiquities section, but I am hoping I can spend some time in the Egyptian section as well.  Please let me know in the comments if you have any requests, and I will make another post when I can!

A Pagan Walking Tour of Paris – Day One: Garden Nymphs, Hero-Poets, and Divine Allegories (oh my!)

We arrived in Paris on Tuesday after many, many hours of travel and very few hours of sleep.  We’re staying with a friend on L’île Saint-Louis, the little island in the center of Paris, on the Seine and next to L’île de la Cité (where Notre-Dame is located).  We’re about a block away from the tiny apartment we lived in from 2000-2005.  This is my first trip to Paris since Wildstar’s big art show in 2007, but that was a really short trip (and our entire focus was the art show), so I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to experience this beautiful city since we lived here seven years ago.

And yesterday I experienced The City of Lights as I best remember it from our starving Bohemian artist days – by walking.  And walking.  And walking.  I must have walked at least 12 miles yesterday, maybe more (it’s no wonder we were so much thinner when lived here).  Wildstar and I began the day by crossing La Seine (aka Sequona, our beloved River Goddess and one of this city’s patron deities) to the Right Bank and Le Marais (the gay/Jewish neighborhood), where we had our morning coffee with fresh croissants.  There’s nothing like sitting in a Paris café and watching all the people walk by, and there couldn’t be a bigger contrast to our quiet life in our remote woodland cabin in the Northwest.  I love this city, but I definitely don’t miss the stress and the struggle and the constant activity.  That being said, Paris is still such an amazing place to visit.  In my opinion it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We walked all over the old neighborhood to regain our bearings and prepare for the upcoming walking tour we’ll be leading.  We traversed the same old passageways, passed the same Gothic architecture, and despite the sudden proliferation of Starbucks (there were *none* in Paris when lived here before, now they’re everywhere), we were pleased at how many of our favorite old shops and restaurants are still in business.  This was even more clear when we walked back to L’île Saint-Louis.  It’s almost like nothing has changed.  The same shops, the same two women at the bakery, the same butcher, the same guy making crêpes at our favorite crêpe stand, even the same old woman (who vaguely resembles Quentin Crisp when he was in his 90s) sitting at the same desk looking out onto the street while she works.  It was all very surreal, like walking through a memory . . .

[Note: None of the photos in this post came from me, I found them on the web.  I am a terrible photographer so these will have to do.]

On the island we had to pay our respects at three important places:

1) The benches on the riverbank, where we once spent many days and nights, making many offerings to La Seine/Sequona.

2) The gilded balcony that was once home to the Club des Hashischins, a private club in the 19th-century that was attended by many cultural luminaries, including many of our poet-heroes:  including Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, Gustave Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas, Honoré de Balzac, and especially a poet by the name of Théophile Gautier, who wrote an incredibly surreal story about this club (containing a hallucination of a man with screaming mandrake roots for feet, and which inspired the name of the Rozz Williams album, Daucus Carota).  This place is significant to us because I once had an elaborate and vivid dream about the club, and the name Théophile Gautier, long before I’d ever heard of either of them, and before we’d even moved to Paris.  I spent years trying to understand the dream, and one day I found out about the story, and the club, and that this club was located on the exact block of Paris where we were then living, just a few doors down on the other side.

3) Square Barye, which features a monument/memorial to one of my favorite sculptors, Antoine-Louis Barye. When we first moved to Paris, I fell in love with the work by Barye at the Musée d’Orsay, especially a beautiful series of allegorical figures (who happen to be male, which is rather rare as far as allegories go). I became somewhat obsessed with Barye, started seeing his work all over Paris, and it later turned out there was a full-scale monument to the man in a park about two blocks from our apartment, which included two of those allegorical figures, Order and Force:

We then went over to the Left Bank, stopped by Shakespeare & Co. (the American bookshop and one of my old hangouts), walked through the Latin Quarter and over to the St. Michel fountain, which I have *always* associated with Hermes despite the overtly Christian imagery:

At this point, a severely jet-lagged Wildstar needed to go back to the apartment and rest, but I decided to continue my walking tour and visit a few old haunts.  I headed a long way down the Seine to the gorgeous Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden and park where I would often sit for hours and write.  This also gave me a chance to revisit one of my favorite neoclassical statues, Amour captive (Love Captured) by Felix Sanzel, which stands in the middle of an incredible rose garden:

Another statue, though, which has no title or attribution, has always puzzled me.  Perhaps someone reading this might be able to help me out. The following statue is clearly a classical philosopher, but which philosopher would be portrayed holding an egg?  Any ideas?

There are so many amazing plants and flowers and quite a few very ancient trees which I also spent time communing with.  I daresay there are more dryads and other nymphs (garden nymphs? park nymphs?) in the Jardin des Plantes than almost any other park in Paris I’ve visited.

I then walked to the Fontaine Cuvier (dedicated to the zoologist Georges Cuvier) – a fountain with an allegorical statue representing Natural History, and which features a stern-looking goddess figure surrounded by animals.  I’ve always found something particularly numinous about this fountain and another tiny fountain across the street, so I paid my respects to the fountain nymphs here:

Nearby are the Arènes de Lutèce, the Arenas of Lutèce (Lutèce was the Roman name for Paris, hence “City of Lights”), which are a Gallo-Roman gladiatorial arena and amphitheater from the 1st century CE that is now a public park.  Years ago I remember a bunch of young football/soccer players running around, beating their chests and exclaiming “We’re the lions now!”  I loved to sit in the amphitheater and read or write while the “lions” rampaged below.

The park was packed on this beautiful sunny afternoon, and beneath me were about 50 guys in a tournament playing the jeu de boules (that game so popular in France where metal balls are thrown into the sand . . . I have no idea how it’s played).

After the Arenas, I felt a strange compulsion to stop inside an old church I had never visited before, St. Etienne du Mont.  In the United States I never set foot inside a Christian church unless I absolutely have to for some reason (usually for a funeral).  But churches in Europe, especially in France, are different.  They’re aesthetically far superior to their counterparts in North America, they’re often built on pagan sites and frequently contain many pagan elements. I’ll talk about this more when I discuss Notre Dame in a future post, but yesterday I heard a voice calling me to stop in and pay a visit.  And sure enough, I was immediately led to a side chapel containing a beautiful allegorical statue of Esperance (Hope) holding an anchor. This lovely statue was made in 1826 by one S.-J. Bru (I cannot find a photograph on the interwebs).  Divine Allegories were everywhere yesterday, and so I paid homage to the Goddess of Hope and moved on.

I headed to The Panthéon, (which became the Temple of Reason during the French Revolution), where many French cultural heroes are buried, including  Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Toussaint Louverture, and Marie Curie:

Outside I poured libations to the Goddess of Reason, as well as my poet-heroes Voltaire and Victor Hugo (I was reading Les Miserables on the plane . . . such a wise and beautiful book).  I then sat for a while beneath the temple columns and read a few favorite passages of Plato’s Timaeus in the cool shade.

My next stop was the Luxembourg Gardens, which were originally built at the behest of Marie de’ Medici.  The park is filled with over a hundred different statues and fountains, including many of my poet-heroes (George Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Stendhal, Paul Verlaine, Leconte de Lisle), a series of Classical Goddesses, and many others.  Below are a number of those statues, starting with one that is particularly interesting in terms of hero-cultus – Le Marchand des Masques (The Merchant of Masks) by Zacharate Astrue.  It depicts a trickster-like lad holding up a mask while surrounded by a ring of masks depicting the actual (rather creepy) death masks of a number of 19th-century writers, artists, and composers – Hugo, Balzac, Dumas fils, Delacroix, Corot, Berlios, Fauré and others:

Dancing Faun by Eugène Louis Lequesne

Le Triomphe de Silene (The Triumph of Silenus) by Aime Jules Dalou

Monument in honor of Leconte de Lisle

Musicien by Jean Valette

The Medici Fountain (above) is a particularly numinous spot and a great place to sit in a chair and read or write.  The fountain portrays Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea, and there’s this uncanny mirror-like effect in the water that photos can’t really convey.  It’s surrounded by some particularly large and beautiful trees.  I honored the fountain nymphs and the dryads before I left.

My final stop was the Musée de Cluny, which is primarily known for being a Museum of the Middle Ages, with a lovely medieval Jardin d’Amour and, most famously, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  However, what few pagans realize is that the Musée de Cluny sits on top of an ancient Roman bath-house, and is home to one of the two statues in Paris of our beloved Emperor Julian, who is a hero to most pagans I know.  If you’re a pagan and you’re visiting Paris, you should definitely stop by the Musée de Cluny and pay homage to the last pagan emperor of the Rome.  (The other statue of Julian used to be at the Louvre, where I would visit him often, but the Louvre statue has unfortunately either been in storage or on loan since at least 2005!)

And speaking of the Louvre, I spent many hours immersed in the Greek & Roman antiquities section(s) today, which will be the subject of my next post!

%d bloggers like this: