Painting

It’s been a while since I’ve done a painting for the theoi — perhaps tellingly, my last one is Narkissos, left unfinished after my surgery in 2008 went awry.

I’ve been feeling the push to paint again quite recently, and the image I’m getting is for Britannia, and will most likely be in watercolours — indeed, one of the main things holding me back this last week is the search for where I unpacked my watercolours to.

“But Ruadhán!” you might wish to interject with, “That’s not a Hellenic goddess!”

Well, I suppose in the strictest sense, you’d be correct, but my reasons include ancestor-worship (definitely an ancient Hellenic practise) and the name “Britain” ultimately comes from Hellenic etymology. Of course, I’m only really justifying myself in public because I’m sure my #1 fan would love nothing more than to use this and the forthcoming painting as “evidence” that I’m somehow “not practising Hellenic religion/reconstruction” anymore, possibly ever (as he’s done this to others in the past, for lesser reasons) — which is hilarity-on-a-stick, true, but best to make such lunacy apparent from the start, den eínai?

My envisioning of Britannia is based part in the traditional Roman and part in the Mod subculture, and may even seem reminiscent of a certain scene from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee — and I’m sure at this point, you probably have the same mental image I do, especially if you’re familiar with my painting style.

One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia. I intend to remedy this, but at a more seasonally-appropriate future time.

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So, I was dicking around on Theoi.com a couple days ago….

…and I entered in “Boeotia” in the search engine on there. First time I’d done that, actually. Really weird how I’ve used that site as a resource for YEARS and been gravitating further and further into Boeotian-specific religion, and I’d never done that before. Now, I’m putting this here rather than in Of Thespiae because my search basically proved me right about something else I’d posted here seemingly ages ago:

My babble about the nymphai poleis isn’t that far off-base.

It seems most, if not all, Boeotian cities are named for a nymphe. Thespiae (now Thespis) is named for Thespia. Thebes named for Thebe. And on and on. You know what this means? It means I’m right — and not just right, technically right — the best kind of “right” there is.

I admit, I feel a little stupid now — this would seem like a pretty remedial thing to learn, but there you go. It’s things like this, the “confirmed personal gnosis”, that lead me to believe that Eros has a master plan in this, somehow.

Respect for Local Nymphai

I currently live in a small city; I prefer living in large cities, but many of the mechanics of living in a smaller one are essentially the same. When I fill my bath (on occasion, I do have a bath), the whole bathroom smells of chlorine, “city water”. Still, this water, though heavily treated, comes from a natural source.

In my kitchen, despite numerous attempts to have maintenance employees for my apartment complex here to fix it, has a dripping sink faucet. It drips, well, a lot. I also buy a lot of springwater cos I have a mild intolerance to ingesting fluoride, which makes the dripping faucet even more trying on any guilty feelings I had about it in the first place, since I’d rather not drink this water. It does, though, render me with an abundance of 1-gallon water jugs which has inspired me to put this dripping water to good use. Unlike a rural person, my water is not coming from a well and is not very easily recycled back into the earth (though, unlike what some oddly seem to prefer believing, it does get recycled).

Basically, I keep one jug positioned under the kitchen sink faucet to catch drip. When one jug is filled, I quickly place a new jug back under it and put the filled jug in the area with the rest of my water reserves. I use these reserves of water for many things around the apartment. Some of it, I clean with. I’ll fill up the cats’ water dishes with it. Water my plants with it. Use it in cooking. Fill my humidifiers in the winter. My room-mate drinks it, and in an emergency, I will, too. I prefer to use locally-bottled spring-water for rituals, as well, but this will do in a pinch, as well.

Though treated, I don’t believe that this treatment can remove the essential “essence” from the nymphai at its source. Some rural-inclined pagans I’ve spoken to seem to lean toward thinking so (though, I admit, this is a conclusion I’ve come to based on some round-about answers from them, when asked) or just stand mute on the subject, but I think that such thinking implies that humanity can be more powerful than these “lesser Goddesses” or terrestrial spirits/daimones, or whatever one prefers to think of the Nymphai as.

I don’t believe that there is anything that humanity can do to remove their divinity from that which is sacred to them, the Naiades, I believe, do not abandon this chlorinated, fluoridated water as it leaves the processing system and enters the city water system, I believe that perhaps they cannot more than simply don’t. It’s still freshwater from a freshwater source, and thus I believe that they still want it to go to a good use, so to honour them, I do what I can to put it to good use. If I just let it drip down the sink drain and let it recycle back into Ann Arbor’s water system, it would be like saying “sorry, Naiades, but I had no immediate use for this water, so I couldn’t be arsed to do anything with it! Better luck next time!” It would also be dishonest, as there are obviously many things that I can do with this water, so I save it for those things.

The more I think of it, the more I realise how considering my inclinations towards cities has enriched my reverence of the “natural” Theoi and daimones of the Hellenic pantheon. As I’ve said before in this blog, I don’t believe that human cities are more “unnatural” than rustic areas, no more so than a beehive or an ant colony, anyway. I believe that it’s all interconnected, and that they each benefit the other, in their own ways. If anything, this has made me realise how inherently Apollonian my practises are, as my beliefs in the context of being a city worshipper are about seeking a balance, a moderation if you will, between the human worlds on Gaia’s terrain. As much as I love the bustling metropoloi of this modern world, I’ve simply become more-conscious of how interconnected these worlds within this world are connected to the rustic worlds of this world. That’s such a beautiful thing to see.

An Argument For the Case of the Nymphai Poleis

While there is absolutely no dispute that that the nymphai prefer wooded, nay, densely wooded areas, the case for the nymphe polis, the City Nymph, is a strong one to be made. As a child, I once read that all trees, all of them, had a nymphe connected to its life; as long as the tree lived, the nymphe would. This is one of those things that has stayed with me always, and has helped, to some extent or another, shape my spirituality and religious life. Within a half-mile radius of my apartment complex, there are at least three apartment complexes named for trees, plus my own, and a golf course, and trees are not only present on the grounds of my apartment complex, there’s one right outside the window of the room where my computer is and another outside my room-mate’s bedroom window. Trees are everywhere I go in this small urban area, so it goes without saying that I believe there is a considerable population of nymphai in this area, as well.

As much as I complain about the gentrification of the Ann Arbor area, it’s still very much a city — a rather small one, but a city nonetheless. Trees are all over down-town Ann Arbor. They run all up and down Liberty Street to Main, they lord over the campus areas from the Law Quad to the Michigan Union to the Diag to Fraternity and Sorority Rows, and up and down Main Street are still more trees. On Liberty and Packard Road both, there are small areas, one is Liberty Plaza, another is tinier, both little more than park benches surrounded by trees with small water fountains built on local wells (taste what comes from those fountains and tell me that’s not well-water).

Even in large cities, even in Chicago, trees may not be more populous than people, but they are present enough that one can duck onto one side-street of Diversey or Belmont or another, close one’s eyes, let oneself “go”, and hear the giggles and whispers of the nymphai who have stubbornly refused to not desert this land simply because Man has brought her cold steels and glasses and her machines, built her buildings of clay and mortar, and coated the grounds in rivers of stone and more clay. The nymphai still stick around Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, West Hollywood, Seattle, Miami, Cincinati, Toronto, London, Paris, Athens, Hong Kong, Sydney, and elsewhere, and they will not leave Their lands just because Their trees and the other plant-life that They are connected with has grown scarce in those parts. Their numbers may be far fewer, but Their abilities and efforts to drive Man to madness, whether she has asked for their guidance or not, are highly commendable, among the Lesser Divinities.

The Nymphai Poleis are, if you ask me, less a “breed” of nymphai, like the Dryades (the Nymphai of Trees and Forests) or the Anthousai (the Nymphai of Flowers), and more a “class” of nymphai, like the Boukolai (the Nymphai of the “Rustic” or Rural areas): They choose to tough it out in these new forests and jungles of concrete and clay because this is Their land, too, and as long as Man permits the plant life that sustains or at least attracts nymphe life, the Nymphai Poleis will adapt Their ways to urban realities, just as the Naiades (the freshwater nymphai) had adjusted to Man in previous generations. The Nymphai Poleis belong to the trees, the waters, the clouds, the flowers, and the shrubbery, and They are just as much the children of the winds as the Boukolai (thus it is apparent why, of all the large cities I have lived in and visited, why I feel that They are especially fond of Chicago). They are just as likely to be Dionysian or Apollonian or otherwise or neither. They also seem to be protective of those who walk or bicycle or take public transportation, as such means are far kinder to what plant life does exist in the city than driving a large personal automobile. They love street performers and learning institutions and open-air café patios and even the smallest city parks. They hang out under the El Train overpasses and in the Subway stairwells and elevator shafts and they dance and sing and swing around the poles and columns and rafters holding the platforms up and together and sometimes They whisper to you “forget about your appointment or your date or that concert you came here for — wouldn’t it be far more exciting to just take off to Chinatown instead?” or maybe even “your company can get on just fine without you, if you move to Koreatown, you can afford to be a street mime and find far more meaning in your life.” Yet, despite hearing those voices that simply can’t be our own, or that sound too much like our own to really be ours, we listen to Them or not at our own discretion, and our nymphe-guided adventures are as many or as few as we want them to be, yet still the Nymphai Poleis beckon us to extraordinarily mad or silly or merely irresponsible things in ways that the Boukolai simply haven’t the opportunity to: The Boukolai may call us into the woods or lakes or ponds or pastures, but in the end, the Boukolai drive us to Their own madnesses that are wholly distinct from those driven by the Nymphai Poleis.

Just as the Bourgeoisie needs the Proletariat classes and vise-versa, and the balance of the classes of Man must be maintained to keep her social orders fulfilled, neither the Nymphai Poleis nor the Boukolai are any better than the other class of nymphai, and They understand the inherent equalities of the classes as much as They understand the differences that give Them Their intrigue and Their purposes, and They understand these things far better than Man understands them, no matter how relevant and true such realities are to Man, as well. The Nymphai Poleis are as much as part of the city population and urban spirituality as the Boukolai are to the rural areas and rustic spirituality. The Nymphai Poleis couldn’t go away, even if They wanted to; the land the poleis were built upon was Theirs long before Man, and it will be Theirs long after she has gone.