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Wild Gods

A community honoring Artemis, Pan, and Dionysus

Agrotera Thysia

“But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, then the huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoibos Apollon…” — Homeric Hymn 27 to Artemis

My hairdresser and I have an ongoing conversation about hunting. She hunts, I don’t. Accreted around this difference between us, not in itself a source of contention, are various disagreements that we have concerning laws and regulations, cougars and wolves, and how humans live in and move through the wild.

Today is the Agrotera Thysia, the Sacrifice to the Huntress, in honor of Artemis’s first hunt at Agrai on the Illisos. It is also the Kharisteria, a festival of gratitude to Artemis, Pan, and Ares for the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon. Hunting serves a different role in a culture so much closer to subsistence as ancient Greece was than our own; while I know people who refuse entirely to participate in our industrialized processes of meat production, eating only those animals they harvest themselves, this is very much the exception to the rule. Nor could our current population support its demand for meat through hunting.

Yet hunting changes one’s relationship with the surrounding environment. Last year I studied wildlife tracking as another means of gaining this intimacy: once you know, concretely, that other beings are sharing a place with you, going about their own business and probably avoiding you in the process, you see the natural world differently. It is not solely for us; we are a manifestation of a natural world far larger and more varied than most of us ever think about. To consciously identify and pursue another living being in this larger world causes you to move through it in different way, to recognize its natural cycles. A hunter interested in continuing to hunt in the same landscape will not kill off mothers with young, nor the young themselves. Considered in this way, Artemis’s associations with death on the one hand–for She is associated with war as well as hunting, at least by the Spartans–and birth on the other make sense. I often refer to Her as a goddess of stewardship, a broader mandate than hunting and one which requires existing in harmony with one’s environment in a very concrete and pragmatic sense. The way that most of us live in 21st century America obscures this reality; most of us who eat meat will never be present at the death of something being killed so that we might live. If you ever have the opportunity, I recommend it.

Tracking wildlife brings you into alignment with hunting in another sense. At least some of the animals you track will be predators; thus, coming across kill sites is not outside the realm of possibility. A couple of fellow students recalled trailing a coyote across the dunes on the Oregon coast, to the moment when it came across a mouse. They followed the hunt, written in the tracks in the sand before them, until suddenly there were no mouse tracks anymore. More viscerally, it’s possible to come across feathers radiating from the spot where a bird was killed, or the sawdust-like remnants of a ruminant’s stomach long after whatever killed it has consumed or hauled away the rest. It’s impossible to retain any romantic notions of the gentleness of nature at such moments. In the wild, birth and death are going on all the time, and Artemis is a facilitator of both. Like Hekate, She is the guardian at a liminal gate through which beings pass from one state of existence to another.

I once described my dedication to Artemis as something like a pursuit, a hunt in itself: not only for wilderness, but for understanding of what wilderness means. The ancient Greeks understood it as a dangerous and even uncanny place, and with good reason. Today, we might be the greater danger, in either loving it to death, using it up, or both.

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Daemonia Nymphe, “Hymn to Bacchus”

If you are a follower of the Greek gods and are somehow unaware of Daemonia Nymphe, you’re in for a treat…

On Being a Woman Alone in the Woods

Io Artemis:

“I’d tell him that being solo in the backcountry is one of the only times in my life that I’ve been able to exist as a body and a person without worrying about how other people might try to claim my body as their own. Crossing frozen rivers on my hands and knees, curling up in my sleeping bag, waking at dawn in a bed of dew—these are the moments when the shadow of that vulnerability fades, and the only thing that exists is the beautiful, indifferent landscape and my own strength and skills. Going alone into the wilderness is one of the ways I reclaim myself. It is an act of joy and an act of self-defense.”

read the rest in Outside Online

Altar to Artemis

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hiketeria offering

Wild Olympics

“When I experience the Olympics, awe and gratitude often strike me to the core, like a ray of sun suddenly slicing through the canopy and illuminating the forest floor in a shocking glow. This has inspired me to protect this place and all who live here: human and nonhuman, plant and wildlife, rock and river.”

Call of the Syren

Here Be Giants
Once there were giants
Not creatures of myth
– though they too are for another story –

But beings of earth and water and sky
They stood, gathered sentinels
Roots reaching as deep into the earth
As their trunks rose to the sky.

They were the center of everything
entire ecosystems existing on every square inch

They helped make us, protected us
Their breath our breath
Reminding us of our role here:
Stay grounded, reach for the stars
Form communities, shelter each other
Be the union between earth and sky.

But we forgot how to listen
Ignored the whispers in their branches
We felled the giants
Severed them from the earth
Severed ourselves from the connection

The giants fell
So then shall we,
to rise again only
in their grace.

IMG_20180527_204723_703.jpg Clearcut along the Hoh, Photo by Syren [Image Description: land scattered with stumps stretches toward a forest…

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Altar to Pan

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Pan, Pan, Io Pan,
If He can’t do it–
What’re we saying,
Of course He can!

Faun, “Hymn to Pan”

Orphic Hymn to Pan

I Call strong Pan, the substance of the whole, etherial, marine, earthly, general soul,
Immortal fire; for all the world is thine, and all are parts of thee, O pow’r divine.
Come, blessed Pan, whom rural haunts delight, come, leaping, agile, wand’ring, starry light;
The Hours and Seasons, wait thy high command, and round thy throne in graceful order stand.
Goat-footed, horned, Bacchanalian Pan, fanatic pow’r, from whom the world began,
Whose various parts by thee inspir’d, combine in endless dance and melody divine.
In thee a refuge from our fears we find, those fears peculiar to the human kind.
Thee shepherds, streams of water, goats rejoice, thou lov’st the chace, and Echo’s secret voice:
The sportive nymphs, thy ev’ry step attend, and all thy works fulfill their destin’d end.
O all-producing pow’r, much-fam’d, divine, the world’s great ruler, rich increase is thine.
All-fertile Pæan, heav’nly splendor pure, in fruits rejoicing, and in caves obscure.
True serpent-horned Zeus, whose dreadful rage when rous’d, ’tis hard for mortals to assuage.
By thee the earth wide-bosom’d deep and long, stands on a basis permanent and strong.
Th’ unwearied waters of the rolling sea, profoundly spreading, yield to thy decree.
Old Okeanos too reveres thy high command, whose liquid arms begirt the solid land.
The spacious air, whose nutrimental fire, and vivid blasts, the heat of life inspire
The lighter frame of fire, whose sparkling eye shines on the summit of the azure sky,
Submit alike to thee, whole general sway all parts of matter, various form’d obey.
All nature’s change thro’ thy protecting care, and all mankind thy lib’ral bounties share:
For these where’er dispers’d thro’ boundless space, still find thy providence support their race.
Come, Bacchanalian, blessed power draw near, fanatic Pan, thy humble suppliant hear,
Propitious to these holy rites attend, and grant my life may meet a prosp’rous end;
Drive panic Fury too, wherever found, from human kind, to earth’s remotest bound.

translated by Thomas Taylor, 1792. From Theoi.com.

Elegy for Tahlequah’s Calf

In the Puget Sound region many of us have been heartbroken by the death of an orca calf that lived for only a half hour, the grieving mother carrying her baby through the water for seven days until researchers lost sight of her today. It’s an awful reminder that for all of this region’s natural beauty, it’s in just as much trouble as the rest of the world.

Seattle poet Paul Nelson brings us this elegy:

 

Tahlequah is daughter of Princess Angeline

brother of Moby, sister to Kiki, mother

to Notch. Her second offspring was not

born but born still and still un-named &

un-numbered. For five days Tahlequah

.

pushed her still-born calf around the

Salish Sea, perhaps a hope that she’d

not be a parent to bury a child, perhaps

a grief vigil, the un-named/un-numbered

calf riding dead on her rostrum five days.

 

Read the rest in Cascadia Magazine

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