Modern Hymns and Poetry for the Dead

Communal Hymn of the Old Thiasos

Hail to the Dionysian Heroines,
beloved of the god,
with ivy in your hair
and beasts at your breast,
you would revel and sing in the face of despair,
weave beauty from suffering,
and carve yourselves into yet deeper vessels,
the better to be filled with his wine,
may I live in your example, in sublime surrender.
The throng that follows the Starry Bull,
above the earth or below.
The throng that knows the Starry Bull as sister, as lover, as friend.
The throng that loves the Starry Bull,
pray admit me to your number.
I pray to the Heroines,
who have sorrowed before us,
and will rejoice beside us when we follow them.
I [take action] for the Heroines of the Starry Bull.

Hail to the Dionysian Heroes,
fathers of our fathers,
our ancestors of glory!
Your blood flows in our veins,
your breath fills our lungs,
your journeys forge our paths,
your death brings us life.
We stand on your shoulders in all we do.
May we honor you by being honorable in your names.
Hail to the Dionysian Heroes, whose lives burned so brightly,
like meteors tumbling from the whirling heavens
– celestial martyrs, messengers of divine will –
I remember you, mortal and yet god-struck,
alone and yet many.
May I live in your example,
in glorious paradox.
I pray to the Heroes,
those who have walked these paths before,
and feast forever at our Lord’s side.
I [take action] for the Heroes of the Starry Bull.

For the Bacchic Martyrs
by Sparrow

I sing of the Bacchic Martyrs
Brave and holy souls they were
They were grandmothers, mothers, and daughters,
They were aunts, nieces, and cousins
They were noblewomen, tradeswomen, homemakers, prostitutes, and slaves

Their blood flowed in the streets like the red wine poured during Anthesteria
Their cries of pain rang out like the cries of the Maenads in the Thracian mountains
Their necks broken like the Athenian girls who hung themselves from trees
The tears their loved ones shed like Orpheus’ tears shed for his beloved Eurydice
Ah, such pain! Such suffering!

Whenever we complain about our own minor misfortunes and discomforts
Let us remember the courageous women who died loving their God
With their very last breath.

Hail to the Bacchic Martyrs! May you rest in the arms of your loving God! May you never

“The Splendid Dead”
by Alex Conall

O Wise Ones,
women ancestral to all poets,
women who name the nameless
so that it may be thought—
we could name you forever
and not come near an end.
We could read eternally
the works of all your pens,
debate the meaning of each word
in context,
what you meant to say
to folk of your time,
what you might mean to say
We could. Perhaps: we should.
But other duties call,
among them writing our own poems,
to speak in our own words
our own truths,
as you have taught us
by example.
And what greater thanks-gift
can we give you
than to tend the gardens of our minds
and our children’s minds
with the poetic tools you gave us?
Perhaps the hoe’s still broken,
but the earth is less blighted,
the corn more gold and green
and the larkspur vivid blue,
for your gifts to us.
We read your poems
and write our own.
Thus we honor you.

(Referents, in case this project is going to be annotated: “Poetry is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde and “Justice Denied in Massachusetts” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Recommended reading, ditto: “Dirge Without Music”, also by Millay.)

To Mark Antony
by Sannion

Mark Antony is like a Bacchic Jesus,
vinegod made flesh and going slightly mad
the more he becomes like us,
suffering under the burden of our nature,
all for our redemption and amusement.
Every event in his life feels momentous and meaningful,
larger than life and a little surreal. Mythic.
He’s not like other men;
he’s seen behind the curtain,
knows the emptiness on the other side
of the mask;
understands that his life is a play
being written by an invisible hand and he just an actor
that must convince the crowd that the words coming out of his mouth
are his own, that he feels their truth in his heart,
that their strangeness doesn’t terrify him, that they are what he wants
more than anything
even though they are just words on a page, a script
he was handed right before being pushed out there
into the world to make the myth live once more.
He is a magnificent warrior, a lover whose fame
spreads like a neglected wife,
wise and clever enough to hold his own with the effetes in Athens
but cheered as a comrade by the soldiers under his command
since he asks nothing of them he himself isn’t willing to give.
And has shown it more times than any of them can count.
A man of unrivaled appetites for flesh and wine and food
who is otherwise more temperate and austere
than a saint in the wilderness with his ashes and hair shirt
because to be indifferent to luxury while in the midst of it is a surer sign of character.
And above all he was courageous and laughter-loving,
never letting the whims of Fate get him down.
He knew the glories of triumph
and the humiliation of defeat
– but neither could change his mild and pleasant attitude.
Once, only, did he flee the world and the hateful company of man
taking up residence on a desolate island off the shore of Rhakotis
where he built a hero-shrine for Timon
out of twigs and rocks he collected on the beach
and slept beside it, eager to dream
of a world where no one knew his name,
where none who had betrayed him
(and there were oh so many of those)
could be found.
Gods and satyrs visited him while he slumbered
and when he woke he was hungry for life once more
and returned to the city of his queen
and the exquisite pleasures of her embrace.
There is another scene that really stands out
– they say that one night near the end
he stood for hours at an open window
staring forlornly into the distance.
Finally, Kleopatra placed a gentle hand on his shoulder
and whispered, “What troubles your mind, my dear husband?”
He turned and looked at her with empty eyes,
said, “Can you hear the strange music of some phantom bacchic troupe?”
Confused, worried, she replied, “There is none.”
“I’ve stopped being able to hear it too.”

What Were They Thinking?
by Sparrow

What were the Roman senators thinking,
When they decided to persecute Dionysos’ followers?
Did the Romans really think that Dionysos (of all Gods!)
Would not retaliate for the killing of His beloved people?
Even the lowest slave knew how Dionysos loved His followers,
And would avenge any wrong doings done to them.

Yes, the senators were greedy for the gold and land,
Yes, they wanted to show the world,
That Rome was a force to be reckoned with.
But to think that Dionysos would stand by and do nothing…
Such foolishness!

Rome’s eternal flame was eventually extinguished,
The barbarians attacked,
And, to this very day, the Roman state is no more.

The Christians think it is their God who punished Rome for the killing of their Lamb,
But we know who the Punisher is and why.

Where The Girls Hang Like Spiders
by Fiona Husch

Wine dark bruises circle
The necks of the girls
Who spin endlessly
For the wine dark God.

Swaying, turning, drifting
Moving as if in the wind
Performing the steps of a dance
Only a Hanged Girl can learn.

At the heart of the labyrinth
There is a quiet place
Amidst the vines and revelry
Where the girls hang like spiders.