Monday, June 16, 2008
Now? Well, now I know brothers and sisters in golden delights from all over the world! Men and women from Belgium, Brazil, the UK, and even right down the road in the heartland of the USA are standing up and saying, “You mean I’m not the only one?”
No, you aren’t. I’m not. There are more of us than we knew. More than we hoped, I think. And that makes me happy.
Aphrodite has been speaking to us all for so long, and I am proud that I have heeded the call to service. More than that, I am honored to have such lovely men and women with me in this work … this play … this Divine celebration and exploration.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sappho stole away from the dormitory well after everyone else had gone to bed. The ritual had ended and would be discussed the next morning, allowing everyone sufficient time to encounter the delectable Aphrodite in her dreams. As Sappho had re-dressed herself in dark robes with a dark veil wrapped around her hair and arms, she wondered about the encounter she was about to have with the golden Goddess in the silver moonlight.
The path was easy to see in the pale light of the changing orb. Sappho saw nobody else as she walked, a fact for which she was most grateful since she wasn’t entirely certain how to explain herself. She was out of the thiasos’s residence when she should have been asleep inside it, and, though such action wasn’t expressly forbidden, she feared it wouldn’t be met with approval. She planned on hiding in the shadows with her veil drawn around her if she saw any Priestesses on her path. This was unnecessary, though she did hide a time or two as a precaution when her nerves got the better of her and she thought she heard a noise on the path.
She saw the grove ahead, its apple blossoms glowing in the pale, silver light. The late night had a chill that hadn’t set in during the mirror ritual. Sappho was thankful she had worn the veil. It was a comfort to pull the fabric around her shoulders and arms to keep the chill at bay. She hoped she wouldn’t be too cold, but somehow she figured that wouldn’t be a problem tonight. She thought of Aphrodite, the heat of her breath on her neck, and the way her body responded reassured her that she would certainly be kept warm enough. As long as she thought about Aphrodite, she would be as hot as if she stood near a bonfire.
The little twisted apple trees clustered together in the darkness, their white blossoms quivering in the breeze. There was an opening in the trees that revealed a walkway leading into the heart of the grove. Before she stepped onto the grove’s path, she looked to the left, to the south where the temple sat. A little flame was flickering from an oil lamp on the altar, the fire of Hestia that was never extinguished within the temple. From somewhere inside, a Priestess moved, disrupting the play of light and shadows on the wall.
Sappho took a few steps into the grove and turned her gaze toward its center, the place she had set as her goal. She thought she saw the glow of flames from within the midst of the trees and a figure moving there as well. Was Aphrodite there awaiting her? Was someone else using the grove for some tryst this night? With great curiosity, and great trepidation, she wrapped herself more securely in her veil and moved as stealthily as she could manage toward the tiny flickers of flame.
She smelled a sweet perfume, as of incense, but she saw no smoke. She did, however, see the distinct figure of a woman just beyond the trees in front of her. She heard the singing of a delightful song, and as she watched and listened she was sure she watched Aphrodite. This time She had dark hair that was unbound and hanging to Her waist in thick curls. She turned and faced Sappho through the trees. Sappho was shocked. Aphrodite looked like her!
She spoke directly to Sappho through the camouflage of night and veil and tree. “This grove has always been a favorite of Mine. I have always been here. When the men and women living nearby felt how sacred this grove was, merely because it had My favor, they began having rites here. They marked the entrance with stones and made a simple stone altar for Me. They offered Me their love, their sex, and their first fruits in this grove long before they built the temple. I gave My blessing to the temple and all else that was built on these grounds because of My love for these trees and the devotion of the people who have come here so long.”
As Aphrodite spoke, Sappho moved into the clearing at the heart of the grove. There was a thick carpet of grass and soft beds of moss. Wild roses grew here, shaded by the apple branches. Sappho saw twinkling lights from within those branches, but she couldn’t comprehend their source. She saw no flame. The lights reminded her of stars, and she wondered if Aphrodite had taken some from heaven and bewitched them to hang here.
When she was in close proximity to the Goddess, she was even more stunned to see what she would have sworn was her own face. Aphrodite looked like her, except this was an ideal vision of herself imbued with all the grace and charm of immortal Kypria. This countenance, so much like her own, had no flaw, no scar, no harshness of any sort, and it almost glowed with the power of Olympos.
“May I ask a question?” Sappho inquired politely. Her insides fluttered at being this close to an immortal – a Goddess who had commanded her presence and a performance. Aphrodite nodded. “I know you may have any appearance you wish, but why would you choose mine? I’m no great beauty. There are several other girls of my own age in the thiasos who are far more fair than I. Why not look like them?”
“Perhaps at some other time, I shall. But do not discount your own beauty. Your face, your voice, your spirit are all pleasing to Me,” the Goddess said simply. “You are touched by My beauty and My love. You dishonor Me by not recognizing My gifts to you.”
“I wish to honor You,” Sappho said sincerely.
“There are many ways you may honor Me,” said the Goddess. “There are countless ways to serve Me.”
“How would You best like for Me to honor and serve You, Lady?” Sappho asked.
“Cultivate your beauty. Tend to it as you would tend to a rose garden,” Aphrodite said. “This is the simplest task. See yourself as beautiful, and all who meet you will feel My mark upon you.”
Aphrodite was silent, and Sappho feared for a moment that the Goddess wanted nothing more from her. “Is this all?” she asked.
“No,” she smiled wryly. “You are likely, someday, to wish my requests of you were so simple. You may also serve Me by honoring the love you find in others. You, Sappho, have a great capacity to love, and men and women alike will be drawn to you. Share your love and theirs, always honoring whatever vows you make.”
“What vows will I make?” Sappho asked, desperately hoping that she would take the temple vows and become a Priestess here. She had wanted that since the night she came to Hiera. She held her breath in anticipation of Aphrodite’s response. She hoped to be called immediately into service, but she braced herself for rejection.
“Your vows are always made of your own accord,” said the Goddess. “No mortal man or woman can force you to make a vow against your will, though they can take your like if you refuse. Such as this has and will always continue to happen. I am immortal, though, and I say you are mine. Vow or none, I will always come to you, and I will demand your service when it suits Me.”
Sappho fell to her knees before the Kyprian beauty and kissed the hem of Her robes. “I am Yours.” She wept tears of joy. “What service would You ask of me tonight?”
“Your song,” Aphrodite gently demanded as she lowered Herself onto a mossy cushion.
“I have not written it all,” Sappho admitted, ashamed and fearful of the Goddess’ anger.
“You vowed to sing Me the best song you could write whenever I should call for it,” Aphrodite reminded her. “I call for it now.”
“As you wish,” said Sappho, and she picked up the lyre that was next to her on the ground, awaiting discovery. Sappho sat on the grass before Aphrodite and began to play the instrument. She’d pluck a pretty melody between the lines, while constantly looking into the eyes of the Goddess.
“Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee!
“Thou hast come, leaving thy father’s golden dominions…
“With chariot yoked to thy fleet-winged coursers,
Fluttering swift pinions over earth’s darkness,
And bringing thee through the infinite, gliding
Downwards from heaven.
“I yearn and I seek your face and your favor.”
By the time she ended, Sappho was exhilarated, titillated, enthralled. The presence of the Goddess of Love was having a bodily effect upon the girl. The power of the inspiration behind her impromptu song moved her as it moved through her. She felt as though she hadn’t been at all responsible for the beauty and arousal of her lyrics. Instead, she felt as though she had channeled some other power and had merely given it voice as it flowed through her.
Aphrodite held her gaze throughout the song. She smiled sweetly as the girl made her offering, the fulfillment of her first vow. Aphrodite accepted this offering graciously, as if it had been the sweetest libation or most precious jewel the girl owned.
Aphrodite continued to compel Sappho’s eyes. She leaned back on Her bed of moss and soft grass for a moment. Then she sat forward and beckoned Sappho closer. The girl happily obeyed and came nearer to the Goddess, feeling the soft carpet under her knees.
“What gift are you willing to give me now?” enticed Aphrodite.
“Any that you wish,” whispered Sappho.
Aphrodite swept a curling tendril away from Sappho’s face. The girl thrilled at the touch of the Goddess. The reaction of arousal at the contact was far more intense than any she had felt with Atthis or as a result of her own hands. She couldn’t have denied Aphrodite any request, and she wouldn’t have wanted to. “Give me yourself,” Aphrodite requested.
Sappho had a moment of clarity, as if Aphrodite had released her momentarily from a spell so that this choice would be entirely her own. With every part of her soul, she knew her response. “I am entirely yours, now and hereafter,” she pledged.
“I will hold you to this vow,” Aphrodite said as She pulled Sappho’s face to Her own and kissed her, tenderly at first but with growing intensity. Sappho was overwhelmed by the ecstasy of their embrace. She felt the world reel around her and the stars spin wildly out of control over her. She let herself sink into the delirium of a choice that has been made and the wild ardor of being taken by the Goddess.
She knew that she made love to Aphrodite – that every touch was an act of tenderness and devotion and lust that brought dizzying and explosive climax ever closer. She could feel and smell and taste the body of the Goddess. She drank Her in and became intoxicated. She could hear Her moans, gasps, sighs, and laughter – all the sounds of pleasure – and knew there was no sweeter music in the universe. She saw the face, the breasts, the curly hair between Her alabaster thighs and knew that no statue could ever show the true beauty of Aphrodite. Surely, Sappho thought, she is most beautiful as She is now – giving and receiving pleasure in the arms of one who is completely devoted to Her.
The two became a tangle of hair and legs and torsos, their hands and mouths continually searching for and finding each other. The pleasure, to Sappho, seemed as if it would last an eternity. She had no other thought in her mind but to enjoy and be enjoyed by Aphrodite, bordering on climax until the stars faded and fell from the heavens. Sappho felt as though she had the stamina to remain intermeshed with Kypris until her very life was ended. And when she knew orgasm was about to take her, it felt like a little death, indeed – such sweet release into oblivion, such cramping desire to sustain it, such remorse that all was ending.
Sappho sang again.
“Then in my bosom my heart wildly flutters,
And, when on thee I gaze never so little,
Bereft am I of all power of utterance,
My tongue is useless.
“There rushes at once through my flesh tingling fire,
My eyes are deprived of all power of vision,
My ears hear nothing but sounds of winds roaring,
And all is blackness.
“Down courses in streams the sweat of emotion,
A dread trembling o’erwhelms me, paler am I
Than dried grass in autumn, and in my madness
Dead I seem almost.”
They panted and smiled, stretched like cats on the mossy ground. They kissed and petted each other until they were content to be still, and Sappho felt the world around her become substantial again.
Aphrodite whispered in her ear, “You will be trained now as a Priestess – my Priestess.” She reached her slender finger down to the secret places Sappho had just explored and touched the moisture there. Sappho wondered if they were going to find heaven together again. Aphrodite smiled as she made an invisible mark on Sappho’s brow. “Now you are anointed by me.”
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
"To begin with, while I do not know the author personally, I did have the opportunity to discuss this work with her prior to my reading it. The author went to great lengths to make sure I was aware that this book is not a work about Hellenismos, or written for Hellenic Reconstructionists.
"Within in the opening chapter she also explains that her influences are Gardnerian Wicca, Cochrane traditional Witchcraft, modern Druidry,and other Neopagan traditions. After reading the book, I have to say this is an excellent resource for practitioners of Hellenismos, Hellenic Reconstruction, and Hellenic Polytheists. If fact, perusing through the bibliography, one notices that the overwhelming number of resources are primary and secondary sources for the ancient Greek religion and ancient worship of Aphrodite. The work includes what many will recognize as a Reconstructionist methodology. It includes a good bit of information on tradition style Hellenic rituals, with an excellent modern interpretation example that can fit into Hellenic Reconstructionist practice, a sufficient amount of historical perspective, a good list of epithets, and enough information as a primer on the subject. Where it lacks is the breezing over or ignoring of Aphrodite's other qualities, such as being a Goddess of the Sea and a Goddess of War.
"What will some Hellenic Reconstructionists not like about this book? It is not a sanitized, lily white interpretation of Aphrodite's worship. Some so-called Reconstructionists are nothing more than bored intellectuals who were raised in a typical Puritan cultural paradigm. They either ignore, reject, or condemn the mystical, ecstatic, orgiastic, and erotic rites of the ancient Greeks. Their attempt is to sanitize and sterilize everything. These Hellenic Reconstructionists are fundamentally disconnected from what they espouse and what they actually do. Overall, this is a worthy work for both Neopagan and Reconstructionist alike. The book is well written and presented, and I'm hoping to see a larger, more expansive book on this subject, from this author, in the near future. I fully recommend this work. "
The program would have to be comprehensive, and it would really have very far-reaching influences. Aphrodite, after all, reaches into many aspects of human existence. We’d need to talk about the many faces and forms of love, including romantic love, familial love, friendship, physical attraction. We would want to talk about Her role in coming of age, marriage, childbirth, the home, politics, sexuality, war, and nature. We would have to talk about the Graces and the characteristics that They lend to mortal existence – splendor, mirth, good cheer. We would have to talk about Their connection to the Muses, and the interplay between Aphrodite and the Goddesses of inspiration. In fact, there is a world of mythology that we would really need to study and dissect in order to make sense of it all.
We’d probably have to start with some basics of Hellenic religious practice, to put Her worship into context. I’m not strictly saying that those drawn to Her service need to work in a Neo-Hellenic paradigm, but it does make sense that we understand those foundations before we individually chose to play with variations.
We would need to think about contemporary methods of expression of Her qualities, but we would undoubtedly want to keep the grace of a somewhat Classical approach.
So much to consider…
Thursday, February 7, 2008
You sweep me away,
A bird of prey claiming the tender prize.
Off my feet and into your arms
Then into my bower
And the golden net
My warrior brings hard battle
Into every land.
But by me you are subdued.
The hardened ram ridden
By the dove.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Here is the complete review:
“This is a most laudable effort, well-balanced, highly introspective but also based upon history. The approach is one of confidence but not absolutism, authoritativeness but not authoritarian, and also accessible for modern Pagans. You will find something new in the old, something recognizable in the commonality of human experience, especially loving experience, but also something to the modern mind refreshingly innovative.
“I might offer an alternate perspective on matters Gorean (relating to an early comment on John Norman’s controversial Gor series), but the reference was non-judgmental and fit with the general scheme of the introductory chapter. I do not concur with the entire of Norman’s entire thesis, but recognize some biological predisposition toward certain characteristics and conventions of heterosexual relationships. I disagree with his notion that healthy relationships are, or even could be, based upon patterns of dominance and submission. In this, I agree with what I perceive to be this author’s general orientation on the subject.
“The bridge between the worship of Aphrodite and related Goddesses of Love exists in many areas: the eight-pointed star (the planet Venus), common iconography, some common titles and divine responsibilities, and the central issues of love, sex, and relationship. I would note that a central nexus may have been found in the Erycine sanctuary on Sicily, a place served in succession by Phoenician priestesses of Astarte, Greek priestesses of Aphrodite of Eryx whom the Greeks held to be Astarte, and also Roman priestesses of Venus Erycina whom the Romans held to be Astarte and likely later identified with Venus Genetrix, Mother of the Julian line.
“I applaud this work and look forward to reading more by this author. “
If I have grace,
It is an insult
Because it pours from me
To turn men’s eyes
And women’s minds.
If I have wit,
I am a fool
To show it
And be accused
Or cruel, covetous cunning.
If I have beauty,
It is a damning mark
That besmirches my soul
And leaves me scarred
Because I must wear it openly.
Whatever light is in me,
I long for the night
That will snuff it out
And leave me,
Monday, February 4, 2008
Yup. I was one of the many girls who was told (repeatedly) by peers that I was ugly, and that label both stung and STUCK. I can look back on it with 20 years of distance and see it for what it was -- insecure kids trying to make themselves feel better by tormenting another insecure kid. But I've never fully shaken it off. There are still times when I feel like the awkward pre-teen -- except now I feel like an awkward 30-something.
To be honest, fair and accurate, I know that I am not a wholly unattractive person. I've known plenty of folks who have sincerely believed me to be "beautiful." And, in moments of joy and contentment, I can see it, too.
My own issues, though, have led me to ask the question I posed above. If we serve the Goddess of Beauty (among other assets), do we ourselves need to be beautiful?
I think, fundamentally, the answer is "yes," but there are caveats. My experience, thus far, with the men and women I’ve known in Her service is that they are beautiful, but not always in conventional ways. We may be oddly shaped or have a quirky feature or two, but there is an underlying beauty to us all. There is a light, a glow, an aura – a certain unnamable something that lends us an attractiveness to which others respond. And I know what it is … it is the touch of Aphrodite.
It is Her mark. Her anointing.
Through us, She shows the world that true Beauty comes in may forms, many colors, many sizes, and many degrees of experience. She takes many forms and faces by working through us, and we see and experience our own Divine Beauty in a way that nourishes and heals and inspires – not just ourselves, but those close to us. By extension, this same touch reaches what my friend Michael Manor refers to as “ever-widening circles.”
It is our task, then, not to strive to meet the demands of the marketplace by reworking ourselves into the image of conventional beauty. Instead, we need to recognize and honor the light that She shines through us so that it radiates clearly into our worlds. That light reflects, after all, and we may be unwittingly accomplishing the very important work of helping others to see the light and beauty that they carry.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Here is what he has to say about In Her Service:
“This well written and researched work touches upon a couple of areas that though traditionally are aspects of religious worship & practice, for probably as long as religious beliefs have been around, are often considered as ‘taboo’ or controversial by the modern day Pagan. Lady Laurelei handles these subjects with insight, knowledge, authority and taste. For anyone who is interested in sacred sexuality, some of the older traditions, the Divine Feminine, and Greek traditions, you would do well in adding this work to your library.”
Friday, February 1, 2008
If you read this blog, you’re going to see occasional references made to my other (non-blog) writing – articles, poems, novels and non-fiction books. Though I’ll likely only reference works that pertain to Aphrodite, I DO write on other topics. (However, I tend to use pseudonyms to differentiate between themes, so you may have a hard time guessing what else belongs to “my” credit.)
I’ve actually already written and published a non-fiction book about what it means to be a contemporary priestess of Aphrodite. In Her Service: Reflections from a Priestess of Aphrodite was released in October 2007 through Magic Woods Publishing.
Okay, so it’s my own publishing company, and I’m currently using a print-on-demand printer/packager. Whatever. It’s a well-written, well-edited book on decent paper with a slick-looking cover. I didn’t want to mess with traditional Pagan/New-Age publishers because I wanted complete artistic control of my work. I’m also sufficiently aware of the market’s current size – miniscule. So, self-publishing/POD made the most sense for me, despite the pervasive stigma that is attached to it.
I’m working on the marketing, and I’m building up a little head of steam. Folks are buying the book, and I’ve gotten excellent reviews thus far. My goal/desire/intention is to bring Aphrodite’s worship into public consciousness. She has been very rejected for the last 2,000 years in all aspects of life except art. Most people have a very poor understanding of Her role, and that includes Neo-Pagans of every ilk (including Neo-Hellenics).
Simply put: I wrote the book because it didn’t already exist. Very few people have written about what it means to honor any of the Olympians, and none have written about Aphrodite. As a fledgling priestess, several years ago, I had no resources to consult. There were no Yahoo groups until I started Thiasos Aphrodite. I knew of one ritual group in California, led by folks who had been my friends when I lived there. Those were the only people I knew who actively worked with Her. Several Hellenic websites mentioned Her, but most didn’t have any contemporary perspective or information to share, and those that did seemed to think of Her as a lesser figure in the Greek pantheon. Worse still, people continue to write of Her as a vindictive, vain and petty prom-queen-type, when they bother to write of Her at all.
I muddled through, though, and learned what I could, where I could. I have worked with Her using reclaiming techniques, and I have conducted exhaustive research into primary resource material. The topics I thought about, read about and talked with others about form the basis of this first offering in Aphroditic service.
This 124-page book discusses (among other topics) issues of self-identifying as a priestess of love, sacred sexuality and temple “prostitution,” the dark aspects of love and beauty, energy exchange and offering, ethics, and enhancing personal grace. I’ve also offered a number of resources, a complete bibliography, and two fully-developed rituals.
It’s a beginning. This is certainly not a complete manual for any man or woman who wants to serve or honor Aphrodite, but it is a starting place. The discussion can continue from here since it has been slow to start elsewhere.
As I continue to write, I’ll keep exploring what it means to be Aphrodite’s priestess. I’m working on a book of rituals as well as a collection of poems. I’ve hit on several topics that I feel I can explore in articles for Pagan publications, and one or two that might make good non-fiction book topics. The first offering that I began (and the one that is taking the longest to bring to fruition) is a novel that I began in January 2004, and I hope to finish the initial draft by May or June of this year so that I can start the editing process – and get to work on subsequent installments in the series.
I hope my fellow priests and priestesses, having heard the summons, will carry on the conversation in their own ways.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sure, you can reject a Goddess like Aphrodite, but She doesn't take that very kindly. Her authority as the Lady of love, beauty, etc. means that She can really screw you up in those areas. Medusa is said to have been one of Her priestesses -- that is, until she crossed the Golden One. Look what happened to her. Gorgon! I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in those repercussions. Curly hair and a withering glare can be hard enough to control. I don't need snakes and a truly stony stare, to boot.
Seriously, though. Once I heard Her voice and felt Her touch in my life, I started doing what I could to be Her servant. I've had very little guidance from other mortals, though I've been blessed in finding a few intrepid souls who also work with Aphrodite and Her antecedents (Ishtar, Inanna, Astarte, etc.). We are few and far-flung, though, we priests and priestesses of love -- or so it seems.
This blog is one of my offerings to the Kypriot. Maybe there are folks out there who will acknowledge Her call because they see a community of Her servants and devotees in the making. If I can, through this tool and other, raise the consciousness of a few people to the point where they feel Her presence more keenly, I will be pleased with my efforts.
This is an outreach project, so please feel free to reach back to me. I welcome comments and correspondence. And bookmark this page because I intend to write often!