Asterion: The God of Cannabis

Marijuana Leaf (Photo Courtesy of marijuana.com)

Marijuana Leaf (Photo Courtesy of marijuana.com)

“Cultivated hemp. Cannabis (some call it Cannabion, some Schoinstrophon, some Asterion) is a plant of much use in this life for the twisting of very strong ropes. It bears leaves like to the Ash, of a bad scent, long stalks, empty, a round seed, which being eaten of much doth quench geniture, but being juiced when green is good for pain of the ears.” (Russo, E.B., MD. Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential)

“Pausanias continues that above the Argive Heraion flowed the river Asterion, on whose banks grew the asterion plant. The vines and leaves were woven into garlands for the statue of Hera, and the plant was made an offering to Her. Asterion was one of the ancient names for cannabis, according to the first century C.E. Greek physician named Dioscurides.” (Rigoglioso, M. The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece)

Cannabis
Cannabis has been a psychotropic drug, otherwise known as an entheogen, since ancient times. The origin of the plant is thought to have come from Central Asia (Rudgley, R. The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age). Its use for twine is well-known, but braziers were also discovered as far west as Romania showing evidence that the seeds were burnt for ritual purposes (and I suspect the use of cannabis may have lead to big munchies which nearly killed of the Mammoths, but just my morbid speculation). These discoveries date back to the Neolithic Era. Cannabis, along with opium, were venerated in places like Minoan Crete for their properties as mind-altering substances which opened up the portals to the spirit realm. It’s a well-known fact that many spirit walkers in indigenous societies use entheogens in order to connect with the spirit realm. Central Asia, as the ancient home of cannabis, is also conjectured to be the source of Pythagoras’ teacher Abaris (Kingsley, P. A Story Waiting to Pierce You). It wouldn’t be too much of a leap in logic to suggest that wherever a spirit-walker went, his psychotropic drugs went with them.

Connecting to the Spirits
This fact makes the illegal status of marijuana even more of a travesty, since it is forbidding us from engaging with the Gods in ways our ancestors would have known. Many realms, I believe, remain untapped due to the non-use of this potent drug, and it has also diluted the essential power of the Craft (in my opinion). To be a spirit walker, an iatromantis, a shaman, or what-have-you, is to have an alliance with the realms of the plant and animal spirits. It means to remember the time of the Sacred Ancestors and join in the Sun Dance of the Labyrinth. It means to open ourselves up to the spirits themselves and use their connection as a authentication of our power. Without that connection, a spirit walker is nothing. Although the use of drugs is not necessary, it is also not forbidden. I think the Mysteries, missing this ingredient, are robbed in some way of their true essence. These plants had a meaning that was more than the average street user or the “War on Drugs” politician could ever imagine. They were the lifeline our ancestors relied on for a purpose. Opium was sacred to the Goddess Rhea for a reason. Cannabis was labeled Asterion for a reason.

Courtesy of theoi.com

Europa taken by the White Bull

The White Bull and the Western Cow
As I wrote in another post, the public name of the God in the Minoan Brotherhood is Asterion. The mythology we have available states that Asterion was the name of two sacred kings in Minoan Crete: the first was a Cretan King who reared the children of Zeus and Europa. Europa was a Phoenician princess (hinting at the cultural relationship between the Minoans and the Phoenicians), kidnapped by Zeus in the form of a white bull. The etymology of Europa means “wide-eyed,” and hints that she was possibly a Cow Goddess. The abduction story of Europa is very similar to the kidnapping of Kore by Hades:

“Zeus saw Europa the daughter of Phoenix gathering flowers in a meadow with some nymphs and fell in love with her. So he came down and changed himself into a bull and breathed from his mouth a crocus.18 In this way he deceived Europa, carried her off and crossed the sea to Crete where he had intercourse with her. Then in this condition he made her live with Asterion the king of the Cretans. There she conceived and bore three sons, Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys. The tale is in Hesiod and Bacchylides.” (The Catalogues of Women by Hesiod).

All three sons were raised by Asterion, who wed Europa. After their marriage, Zeus transformed the White Bull into the constellation Taurus. Two of the sons, Minos and Rhadamanthys, became Judges of the Underworld. Sarpedon became a long-lived king (some say he died in the Trojan War, and Philostratus mentions that he, too, became  Judge in the Underworld with his brothers). This is quite the story, and holds a lot of interest to me because of the early relationship, as I previously pointed out, about the kidnapping of the Maiden to become a Queen of a rich land.

Image Courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasipha%C3%AB

Attic Kylic depicting Pasiphae and Her baby Minotaur

The Star of the Labyrinth
The second Asterion is the Minotaur of the Labyrinth. Asterion was the Son of Poseidon (the Zeus of the Sea) and Pasiphae, daughter of the Sun God, sister of the sorceress Kirke, and wife of Minos (son of Zeus). Pasiphae was considered to be a Goddess in Her own right. Plutarch mentions:

“Now there was a temple and much respected oracle of Pasiphae at Thalamae.” (Plutarch on Sparta, p. 60).

Pasiphae possessed the ability of Witchcraft, which was to say she was a skilled pharmakos. I personally would LOVE to know how she had her husband ejaculate scorpions, millipedes and snakes into women she hated. Talk about some jacked up shit! That makes for a great anime!

Anyway, Pasiphae and Poseidon’s child was at the center of the Labyrinth. For now we’re ignoring the Greek telling, because it was full of political claptrap that made the Athenians look good and the Minoans very evil. Theseus, the hero, was the legendary founder of Athens (and Athenian democracy which subjugated women as chattels and property). What a piece of shit. Ignoring the political veneer, the Minotaur is shown in the Attic Kylix just like the classic Mother-Child motif found with Aset (Isis) and Heru (Horus), Parvarti and Ganesha, and Mary with Jesus.

R.F. Willetts speculates that the Labyrinth design was based on an ancient sun dance (Ancient Crete: From Early Times Until the Roman Occupation). The ancient mimetic dance was probably used to honor the Sun Bull, the Cretan Zeus, who was represented in the person of the Minoan King. The journey into the Labyrinth and from it was probably a rite of Initiation, whereby the person was led by the Priestess (Ariadne, the Spider Weaver who used the scarlet cord to lead them to the center). At the very heart, the initiate became the Man-Bull: the union of Divinity and Mortality.

Reefer Madness!
Cannabis was identified as being called Asterion, the gift of Poseidon. His mother was a pharmakoi Goddess, Pasiphae. The ritual use of cannabis was the catalyst of Enlightenment (or, as I call it, Gnosis). The prototype for Dionysus from Crete, then, is the jewel Cannabis: the Son of the pre-Olympian Poseidon who is the Sacred Bull. That’s right peoples: reefer madness of Dionysus! Pipe it up, inhale, and enjoy the effects. In fact, cannabis enjoys and interesting piece of warning which the United States slapped on it much like the Romans did on the Bacchic revels in 186 BCE:

“Marihuana is that drug – a violent narcotic – an unspeakable scourge – The Real Public Enemy Number 1! It’s first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations – space expands – time slows down, almost stands still…fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances – followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions…leading finally to acts of shocking violence…ending often in incurable insanity.”

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

Sources:

Hunter, R. (Ed.)(2008). The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Constructions and Reconstructions.

Kingsley, P. (2010). A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet, and the Destiny of the Western World.

Rigoglioso, M. (2009). The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece.

Rudgely, R. (1999). The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age.

Russo, E.B., MD. (2002). Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential.

Talbert, R.J.A. (Transl.) (1988). Plutarch on Sparta.

Willetts, R.F. (1965). Ancient Crete: From Early Times Until the Roman Occupation.

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Dionysus and The Sacred Bull

Courtesy of http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/chauvet/venus_sorcerer.php

Cave painting from Chauvet Cave, France (c. 30,000 BCE). The Man-Bull and the vagina of the Woman.

The sanctity of the Bull as a symbol for the Sacred Masculine can be found as early as the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, Livernon and Chauvet in France. During the Bronze Age (4000 – 1700 BCE) the Spring Equinox occurred during the constellation Taurus due to the Precession of the Equinoxes[i]. Currently it occurs in the constellation Aries (the Sacred Ram). During the Age of Taurus the Myths of many cultures personified the life forces as a Bull that needed to be slain so that the Cosmos would continue. As a result, many cultures and religions celebrated their New Year on the Spring Equinox. The New Year would entail the sacrifice of an actual bull, reenacting the First Sacrifice that made the Cosmos possible, as everything that exists was said to be made from parts of the Bull. Cultures and religions that had these mythic motifs included the Persians, the Mesopotamians, the Minoans, Eastern Anatolia (where Phrygia was located), the Indus Valley, the Gaulish Celts, the Canaanites, and the Thracians. Interestingly, the Sacred Bull was also linked to the Goddess Hekate. In the Greek Magical Papyri, a collection of texts with spells and incantations dated from the 2nd century BCE – 5th century CE, Hekate is addressed in the Prayer to Selene as “O Night Bellower, Lover of Solitude, Bull-Faced and Bull-Headed One,” and “Bull-Eyed, Horned, Mother of Gods and Men.”

Dionysus and the Bull
Dionysus was also described as being “bull-horned.” In the Orphic Hymn to the God of the Triennial Feasts[ii], the hymnist writes, “I call upon you, blessed, many-named and frenzied Bacchos, bull-horned Nysian redeemer, god of the wine-press, conceived in fire.” Other hymns go on to say that He is “bull-faced.” Dionysus may have had origins in Crete, where the Sacred Bull was especially venerated. The Sacred Bull was linked to the symbolism of the Moon. A Zoroastrian prayer says that the “Moon is the Seed of the Bull.” Apis, an Egyptian God who is another form of the Sacred Bull, was illustrated with the Moon between his horns. Shiva is linked to the Sacred Bull, and drawings often show him with a Crescent Moon on His brow resembling horns. The Minoan Horns of Consecration sculpted to represent the horns of the Sacred Bull, I believe symbolize the powers of the Moon. The Egyptian God Ptah was said to incarnate as a black bull created by moonbeams. This connection of the Sacred Masculine to the Moon may be rather startling to find since many modern Pagans, familiar with Wicca, have come to symbolize the Moon as a solely female. As we are seeing, the ancient world was not so easily divided.

Photo courtesy of http://www.minoanatlantis.com/Minoan_Mirror_Web.php

Horns of Consecration (restored) in Knossos, Crete.

Minoan Sacred Bull
The Sacred Bull was particularly venerated in Crete, where representations of Sacred Bulls can be found everywhere. According to the Orphic Hymns, Dionysus was born in Crete. The name itself, Dionysus, was first found in Mycenaean fragments known as Linear B. The Linear B alphabet predates Greek by several centuries, and was found mostly in the Minoan capital city of Knossos. It is descended from the older Linear A alphabet spoken by the Minoans, and as of this writing remains undeciphered.  This language was formed after the language found in Linear A, confirming the Orphic Hymns that Dionysus may have originated from the Minoan Civilization. Or, perhaps an archetypal Deity like this has always existed in various forms in various cultures? What we do know is that in Minoan Crete He was given the name Zagreus, a title for a hunter who captured live animals. As Zagreus, He was identified as the Cretan Zeus. Carl Kerenyi[iii] stated that the title was rooted in Minoan Mythology.

Image Courtesy of http://www.andrewgough.co.uk/bee2_1.html

Bakkhoi women leading a bull to the altar.

The Sacrifice of the Bull
Rites depicting the Sacred Bull would always recreate the creation of the Cosmos and humanity by sacrificing a bull. The sacrificial death of the Sacred Bull was seen as a dismemberment of the God Himself. His flesh and blood, eaten by His worshippers, would be viewed as the God investing His very Presence into the bodies of His followers, granting them a portion of His Divinity (known as theophagy, or “God-Eating”). This omophagia (eating raw flesh) would ensure immortality. Such a sacrifice occurred among raucous festivals on the island of Crete every two years. At the height of the ritual when the Bull was killed, a basket would be held aloft showing the survival of the heart[iv]. In Orphic Myth, seven Titans sought to dismember the infant God. In order to escape, Dionysus shape-shifted into various animals, the last being a young Bull. They tore Him into seven pieces (diasparagmos) and ate His flesh. They were killed by Zeus, and the only surviving piece of flesh was His heart.

Cakes and Ale
The reenactment of the sacrifice of the God lives on today in the Cakes and Ale portion of many Pagan rituals, although many usually just see it as the “grounding” portion after performing a ceremony. Between the main part of the ritual and the end when announcements are made, Cakes and Ale are usually handled as a brief “snack break” that is there just because.  I wonder how many realize the significance of Cakes and Ale as the modern Pagan continuation of the ancient custom of the Sacrifice? To simply view the Cakes and Ale as a mere “add-on” in ritual removes the importance of the Cakes and Ale from its origins as the very embodiment of the Divine into humanity.  In ancient times the animals that were sacrificed were very often shared among the ritual participants. This was viewed as partaking of the essence of the God. This part of the ancient rituals was often the most important, because it symbolized the reciprocity between the Gods and mortals. The sacrifice itself was a gift of thanksgiving to the Gods so that Their essence was fed by hymns, prayers, worship and offerings. In turn, the Gods would bless the worshippers and renew their life force through the medium of the animal that was the God Incarnate. The cakes are the flesh of the God, and the ale is the blood of the God. What we have here is a return to our Classical Pagan roots in the Eucharist symbolism of the Cakes and Ale. In Roman Catholicism, the Eucharist (or Communion) is the belief that the wafer and wine literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. This is merely a Christian adoption of what once was a Pagan ritual. In the third century CE, beneath St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican[v], a fresco of Jesus shows him with symbols from both Apollo and Dionysus. In this syncretic mosaic are written the words:

I am the True Vine.”

Dionysus
In our Temple, our religious calendar places the New Year celebrations to take place at the Full Moon closest to the Spring Equinox for a public celebration, and a more private celebration typically for Temple members only held during the Spring Equinox itself. The Sacrifice of the Bull is very important, as in so doing we are reweaving the energies throughout the land itself, and we are participating in the First Sacrifice. We are also remembering that it was by Sacrifice that humans were created: from the ashes of the Titans and the blood of Dionysus Zagreus. Thus, by blood and ash we are ever participating within ourselves the suffering of the sacrifice. Our lives are a gift from tragedy, something that a God had endured, but we were the result.

Ritual is Memory: it is reentering the Sacred Dance and Rites given to us by Dionysus. In ritual we touch the very core of our inner being, bringing forward from the past the power we need to engage the present and ensure the continued existence of the future. That’s what sacrifice is all about: legacy. A legacy built on a continuous gift exchange which was first bestowed upon us. And we have that opportunity to always return it to Them.

Thank you, Dionysus.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
~Oracle~

Footnotes and Sources:


[i] As the Earth revolves and rotates, it also “wobbles” like a spinning top. This wobble causes the constellation that the Spring Equinox occurs in to change. Because there are 12 constellations, it takes 2167 years (1/12) for the Spring Equinox to rise in each constellation. A complete rotation = 1 Platonic Year (26,000 years).

[ii] The Orphic Hymns translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis.

[iii] Kerenyi, Carl. (1976). Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. UK: Princeton University Press.

[iv] Albinus, L. (2000). The House of Hades: Studies in Ancient Greek Eschatology. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

[v] Morford, M.P.O., & Lenardon, R. (1999). Classical Mythology (6th Ed.).NY: Oxford University Press.

My Minoan God

Courtesy of http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/crete/knossos/t.html

Ancient Cretan coin. (Left) Head of Pasiphae/Ariadne. (Right) Swastika Labyrinth with four crescents between arms, five pellets in center.

I happen to be an initiate Witch of the Minoan Brotherhood, a men’s Mystery Tradition for gay, bisexual and hetero-comfortable-with-their-sexuality-and-willing-to-engage-with-other-men-erotically men. (I know a mouthful. Get it? Mouth.Full.? Never mind). Being a Mystery Tradition, there isn’t much really I can share about the lore, but what I aim to do is to bring in the Dionysian aspect as I study about Dionysus Zagreus more in His role of Asterion, the Sacred Bull God of the ancient Minoans. Anything I share will already have been published in scholarly books, and the rest is pure guesswork and my own careful navigation of what I can share versus what I feel is very, very private. Sub rosa.

Courtesy of theoi.com

Europa taken by the White Bull

Asterion
Asterion (Gk. “Starry One”) was the name of two kings in ancient Crete, the island-nation that was the seat of the Minoan Civilization. Publicly, it is the also the name of the Bull-Horned Son of the Great Goddess Rhea. As my devotion towards Dionysus continues, I’ll be posting my personal thoughts and research on Asterion, and His connection to my beloved Intoxicant. Asterion was my first cult-image connection to the Raving One, and my spiritual path was all the better for it. He became more real, more sublime, and much more powerful than I could have ever known.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

(Roman Motif, 1st Century CE) Grapes being torn apart, much as Zagreus was also torn apart by the Titans.

Zagreus
Zagreus is another cult-image of Dionysus from Crete: the Divine Son of the Dread Queen and Zeus (although sources may differ on whether it was Sky Zeus or Hades). Zagreus is also another face of the Divine Son and Mother motif as recorded from Alkmeonis, an early Greek epic that is now lost, with only fragments quoted here and there. Dating from about the sixth century BCE (about the time when Pythagoras was born), a prayer goes:

“To Mistress Earth and Zagreus who art above all the other Gods.”
(~Alkmeonis)

I’ll be exploring these and other Mysteries during the upcoming week. Maybe longer or shorter, depending on the Serpent-Crowned God Himself and what He wants. Either way, this should be of interest. If to no one else then to at least me.

Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)~Oracle~