Last night, I covered my shrines for the second night of the Anthesteria (and I use HMEPA for calculating this; we’re in the 700th Olympiad, so click on that bracket). I always take PTO for Anthesteria. In the teens of our current century, every time I didn’t set the time aside, a snowstorm would do it for me, and my workplace would close for non-critical staff. So I eventually added this to my bracketed considerations.
I started the fallow-days preparations at about 4 PM because I wanted to clean everything before covering it. Cleaning my shrines takes roughly an hour. It’s my first time attempting to cover the shrine as I currently have it set up, and I was able to do this using a fitted sheet to hook it over the top of the shelves. It feels a bit precarious, but it is holding, Gods willing. (I do want to investigate/plan for a furniture change for my main shrine area to make it easier to clean and cover in the event such things are necessary, but most of the options I have seen online would involve losing my kneeling-height lower shrine that I acknowledge before doing meditation and use actively while doing other contemplation/divination things that I don’t want to stand during, and it’s not an urgent problem.)
For whatever reason, covering my shrines freaked out my cat. I mentioned months ago that she seems to really like my shrine area — and she loves hanging out with me when I meditate — and she is eighteen, so she hates change. Except when it comes to her food, which I keep having to switch out because she eventually decides she hates whatever I crush her thyroid and hypertension pills into.
My smaller shrine for the Creative, Intellectual, and Professional Gods (a CIP of inspiration 😁) is much easier to cover.
While preparing for Anthesteria this year, I started remembering my own end of the last decade. In 2018, I moved into my current apartment just before Anthesteria started, and I was caught a bit off-guard by the holiday because I was settling in and in a weird mental space. I didn’t even have wine, but hot chocolate, so I offered that (and it seemed to go over really well). In early March, I started praying to Dionysos using the Oration chant because I was not in a great mental health space. That May, I picked Plato back up after years of frustrating starts and stops, and while I hadn’t learned about the Iamblichean sequence yet, it was like a sea change.
Months later, after learning things that I needed to learn, I wrote the poem “Loosening Bonds” (which was reprinted in my poetry chapbook Acts of Speech) to express some of that — I had subconsciously avoided worshipping Dionysos in any intense capacity for a long time due to his devotees talking about him rendering them apart and my fear that I’d be ripped so much apart that I would fall into nothingness. I’ve been ripped apart by other people since I was a young child, and what I was searching for through both therapy and Plato and the religious modes I was trying out was something that could take all of the bruised and broken pieces that were me and restore a person out of them. Ultimately, through the teachings of the Platonists, I learned that it is the Titans who rip us apart, not Dionysos; ultimately, through the teachings of the Platonists, I learned that we participate mystically in the myth of Dionysos by being like him in that respect; ultimately, through the teachings of the Platonists, I learned the unshakeable power of the myth linking the God I worship most closely, Apollon, to Dionysos and how powerful worshipping them together can be due to Apollon’s fierce eros pronoetikos and his role in gathering the scattered parts of Dionysos into a whole. I realized that that is why Plato was so blessed — in Apollon’s series, the mode of unification and purification amplified by his participation in the philosophical myth because his embodiment was a close expression of what Apollon’s role is towards Dionysos and towards each of us.
What brought all of this up for me again was reading an article in Atlas Obscura about cacao and its religious context. I remembered the haphazard offering I had made five years ago, and upon reading the article, I realized just how appropriate it had been for Anthesteria. So I decided to do that again. Of course, I offered a little bit of wine this year — a small can of what I think was a Riesling, and I tasted it with about as much enthusiasm as Proclus probably had when he tasted meat during sacrifices — because the symbol of opening the wine-jars is important. Last night after sunset, for the silent offering of the second day of Anthesteria, I made a cup of hot cocoa for him and for me, and I offered him his cup while rain and a bit of hail started brushing against the windows like a rain drum. It was a very beautiful experience. Meanwhile my cat was excited. She paced underneath the popup Dionysos shrine and kept marking it with her face.
It’s very hard for me to have my shrines covered, but it’s important to let them rest — fallow periods at shrine preserve the shrine’s sacrality, and while I could say more, that’s a discussion for another time. I will pray to the Chthonic Gods and the ancestors tonight, and I eagerly await sunset tomorrow when I can remove the coverings and pray.