Fireless Bacchic chernips

Fireless Bacchic chernips
by Sannion

If you need to make cleansing water (Greek chernips), but aren’t able to light a laurel leaf on fire and dip it into the basin of water (for instance because you’re at an event that doesn’t allow open flame or your roommate is sensitive to smoke and other strong smells or you’re a teenager practicing Hellenismos on the down low or you just want to do things a little differently) you may use the following simple recipe.

For this you will need:

  • Water
  • A bowl
  • An ivy leaf

This form of chernips uses ivy because it was the sacred plant of Dionysos; indeed the god was even called Kissos, “the ivy” for in many respects it was his double. Ivy is a plant that, like Dionysos, has two births. The first birth is when it sends out its shade-seeking shoots with their distinctive leaves. But after the dormant months of winter, when the god himself is rejuvenated it sends out another shoot, one that grows upright and towards the light, thus honoring the return of the vibrant god. When the fire of Zeus’ lightning consumed Semele – with Dionysos still in her womb – it was the cool ivy that surrounded and protected him. When the satyrs were first given wine they were driven mad by its effects. Dionysos placed ivy around them and the plant extinguished the heat of the wine, allowing them to regain their senses – though ivy itself produces a strong poison which has intoxicating properties. The ivy leaf was tattooed on the hand of Dionysian initiates. And Dionysos and his mainades are always pictured wearing crowns of ivy.

Hold the leaf in your palm high above your head, like a tendril seeking the sun, and then slowly bring it down, plunging it into the bowl of water, as when young Dionysos plunged into the sea and the waiting arms of Thetis.

As you are bringing the leaf down feel the power and vitality of the god flow into the receptive basin.

Then lift the bowl to the level of your heart and recite Orphic Hymn 47 to Perikionios (who is twined around the pillar) as follows:

I call upon Bakchos Perikionios, giver of wine,
who enveloped all of Kadmos’ house
and with his might checked and calmed the heaving earth
when the blazing thunderbolt and the raging gale stirred all the land.
Then everyone’s bonds sprang loose.
Blessed reveler, come with joyous heart!

And then carry the bowl around your ritual space, using the leaf of ivy to sprinkle the soothing and protective water as you repeat these lines from the Orations of Aelius Aristides:

Nothing can be so firmly bound
by illness, by wrath or by fortune
that cannot be released by the Lord Dionysos.

Envision the drops of water cleansing whatever they touch and neutralizing any harmful effects through the power of Dionysos and feel it spread out until the whole space is covered in green, throbbing vegetation.

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