Monday, February 18, 2008

Timothy Alexander Reviews In Her Service

Timothy Jay Alexander is one of the very few writers specializing in the contemporary practice of ancient Greek religion. His books, A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos, Hellenismos Today and The Gods of Reason are among the rare titles available on the market in this genre. When In Her Service became available on Amazon, Timothy reviewed it (to my great pleasure).

"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. "

Contemporary Priestess Training

What would the training program look like for a contemporary priesthood of love, a priestesshood of sexuality? What should the new training program for Aphrodite’s priests and priestesses look like? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this lately, and I’ve been sketching out some ideas. Very rough ideas, for the most part, but ideas that I think might eventually lead somewhere.

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

Amor Vincit Omnia

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
Of passion,
Of love.

My warrior brings hard battle
And conquest
Into every land.
But by me you are subdued.
The hardened ram ridden
By the dove.
(c) 2008, Laurelei Dabrielle

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Michael Manor Reviews In Her Service

Michael Manor founded, with his wife Lissa, the Qadishti Institute and moderates the discussions that are happening among many of the world’s contemporary priests and priestesses of sacred sexuality. I met mike and Lissa at the second Qadishti Fest, held at Our Haven in French Lick, Indiana. Because the qadishti of Babylon and Aphrodite’s priestesses in Greece were “kissin’ cousins,” I’ve learned quite a bit from the qadishti community and consider myself a part of it. When I asked Michael to review my work, I was very pleased that he consented.

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. “

Helen (a poem)


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
Of malice
Or negligence
Or cruel, covetous cunning.

If I have beauty,
It is a damning mark
That besmirches my soul
And leaves me scarred
And sullied
Because I must wear it openly.

Whatever light is in me,
I long for the night
That will snuff it out
And leave me,
At peace.

(C)2008, Laurelei Dabrielle

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Beauty" Required?

"How beautiful/handsome does a priest/ess of Aphrodite need to be?" This question has be chewing on me for a while. In fact, there are times when I've felt inhibited in expressing my connection to Our Lady of Perpetual Goregeousness because I didn't feel like I lived up to societal standards of beauty. I was afraid that, by putting myself out there as one of Her daughters, I'd be opening myself up to adolescent-style criticism. I could practically hear voices coming back to me from junior high school taunts telling me how ugly I was.

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.

Happy Aphrodite Day

The Greeks once marked the 4th of every month as belonging to Aphrodite. Technically, that would have been the fourth day following the new moon. But I'm a (somewhat) lazy 21st Century American, and I use the 4th calendar day of each month. So, happy "Aphrodite Day!"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kevin Gardner Reviews In Her Service

Kevin Gardner, the High Priest of the Temple of Ishtar, is the author of two highly regarded books for Wiccan clergy. He wrote The Wiccan Minister's Manual and A Handbook for Wiccan Clergy.

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

In Her Service: Reflections from a Priestess of Aphrodite

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.