Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Communal Celebration

The other day, I had the pleasure to participate and experience a Noumenia ritual with Labrys, an Athens-based Hellenic polytheist group. We gathered on Filopappou Hill, at midday, around the stone altar Labrys has erected near the Heroon of Mousaios. The ritual, following Labrys’ format, was powerful and beautiful. The khernips passed around for pre-ritual purification had rosewater mixed in it, granting it a divine fragrance that instantly placed you in ritual mood. During the hymn to Hestia, the small fire one of the members leading the ritual had lit grew haunting and intense. The many libations poured upon the altar seemed to be thirstily absorbed by the stones warmed by the Sun and by the dry earth. The many different kinds of incense burnt heartily released blessed smoke, which swirled in spirals and columns and naturally fumigated the large circle of participants. The Orphic hymn to Mousaios was especially potent; many participants commented on the power of the hymn and its beauty afterwards. I felt that the numerous deities invoked with that hymn made their presence known to varying degrees, something that was especially moving and impressive, given the sheer volume of Gods and spirits called. At one point during the libations, a rogue bee approached the altar, sat on a libation oinokhoe (wine jug) for a bit, and then took flight again, circled the altar and disappeared. I took that to be an auspicious sign from the Gods that the ritual was well-received, something that improved my already great mood further.

After the ritual was completed, we had a small feast all together, partaking of wine and various foods, in honour of the Deathless Ones that graced us with their presence and blessings. That was one of my favourite parts of the ritual, and something I much like about Labrys in general: they really do make you experience the feeling of a community, even if you don’t fit 100% with everyone present. Before, during, and after ritual, we’re all part of the same community, co-religionists worshipping the same Gods, and that’s the most important thing in my eyes. This is also one of the biggest reasons why I always recommend Labrys, even if I don’t (yet, perhaps?) feel I can become a full member or fit in completely. They provide an indispensable service to all local Hellenic polytheists, that of a tangible and true expression of the polis religion, as it should be in modern times.

Following the celebration, I was invited by some friends in Labrys to watch their rehearsal for the Attika Dionysia, a modern celebration in honour of Dionysos, organized and performed by the group. The – long! – rehearsal at Tritsis park in an open theatre was beautiful and inspiring. I will definitely try my best to attend the Attika Dionysia and I am certain I will see quite the spectacle if the rehearsal was any indication! I got back home, nearly 12 hours later (I was out from 10 am to 9 pm!), sun-burnt, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted but excited, satisfied, content, and filled with hope, spiritual “buzz”, and a desire for more.

It was a wonderful experience and one I plan on repeating many times in the future. The people at Labrys are exceedingly hospitable and kind, going out of their way to accommodate and help anyone and you’re immediately made to feel welcome. I don’t know if my involvement with Labrys will be beyond that of a “religious acquaintance” or if it will develop into something deeper and more complex but, either way, it will definitely benefit me greatly.

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