How to worship the Starry Bull way

How to worship the Starry Bull way
by Sannion

Start by figuring out how you want to honor the Gods and Spirits of the Starry Bull pantheon. Do you feel called to do shrine work? Then set up a shrine for them. Do you feel called to do spontaneous ecstatic ritual with them outdoors? Then do that. Do you want to get to know them first through study, reflection, art and simple acts of devotion then see where it goes from there? Perfect! There really is no wrong answer here, except sitting on your ass and doing nothing at all. However, that advice is not terribly helpful for the complete novice so I’m going to break it down even more for folks.

What I’d recommend is begin with the basics. Go through the pantheon and see if any of them stand out for you. Some may be familiar, some may be completely new and don’t just go with the ones you immediately like. Some of the deepest and most important divine relationships I’ve formed started out with aversion and resistance.

Once you’ve got a manageable group (and don’t try to juggle more than you can reasonably handle; there’s plenty of time to get to know the pantheon better) start learning what you can about them. Not just in a vague, abstract and generalized Bullfinchean sense but specifically how they are understood and interacted with in the context of the Starry Bull tradition, which is strongly rooted in Southern Italy and Bacchic Orphism. That doesn’t just mean that we favor the forms of the divinities and the different, localized stories known to the people of that region, though this is certainly part of it; our vision is informed by their worldview. It is a worldview that emphasizes the bizarre, the monstrous and the tragic; a worldview that is dark, sensual, earthy and mad; a worldview dominated by the labyrinth, that place of mysterious intersection between death, dream and desire. Our pantheon is shaped not just by who is in it but by how they are seen in it. We find the light in the dark and the dark in the light. Everything is broken; everything is beautiful. That’s the lens through which we perceive the myths and the figures behind the myths that make up the Starry Bull tradition. And as you immerse yourself in it, you will come to do so as well.

While this process is going on, begin engaging with the Gods and Spirits you’ve chosen through cultus. Don’t worry about setting up an elaborate shrine right off the bat (they’re best if they develop gradually and organically anyway) and don’t let your lack of knowledge about them or their preferred method of veneration hold you back. You’ll learn this with time and practice and no doubt by making a couple serious blunders. You’ve got to get things wrong in order to figure out what it means to get things right, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Besides, we place a strong emphasis on forging a personal relationship with the Gods and Spirits of our pantheon and they often ask different things of different people, which is why plenty of room is left for folks to individually tailor Starry Bull practices and observances.

A good way to get your toes wet is by making regular offerings to a God or Spirit. This can be really simple: lighting a candle, pouring out a libation, reading a poem or praying to them with one’s own words, spending some quiet time communing with them or just focusing your thoughts on them and then thanking them. Once you start getting a feel for who they are and the sorts of things they like you can begin introducing more specific offerings and devotional activities. If you aren’t particularly sensitive you can ask other members for suggestions, consult the Gods and Spirits directly through divination or ask one of the many competent diviners we’ve got if they can acquire that information for you. Once you feel as if you’ve reached a comfortable level of engagement with them you can move on to the next name on the list, either carrying forward the previous divinity’s cultus or starting completely fresh with the next God or Spirit. You may also come up with your own religious routine or adopt the system of devotional days and festivals that we’ve implemented. These are non-mandatory and intended solely as a means of introducing one to the members of our pantheon, so feel free to use it, adapt it or disregard it as you see fit.

Now at this level you don’t really have to worry too much about purity and related issues, but if you begin engaging more deeply with our Gods and Spirits you may feel drawn to create a shrine or other dedicated holy space for them and that’s usually when the need for more conscious ritual etiquette kicks in. You may find it difficult to approach their shrine while in a state of miasma or undesirable consequences may result when you do so; alternately, because of the nature of the beings we engage with and the types of activities we carry out for them, the problem may not be when you come to them but when you go to others afterwards. Unless you get a strong sense that impurity is a prerequisite of the work you’re being called to do you should probably err on the side of caution and perform cleansings before any engagement with their shrines and after any particularly intense encounter, especially if blood, sex, death or madness are involved. While access is certainly important, there are other considerations – miasma can affect our physical and spiritual well-being and make us vulnerable to malign influences. More to the point it’s contagious – something we should always keep in mind when dealing with others.

In order to maintain right relations with the Gods and Spirits of our pantheon, you may have to do more than sprinkle chernips on yourself and fumigate with burnt laurel leaves – and I don’t just mean beefing up your purifying rituals. The Gods and Spirits of our pantheon are not fond of boundaries, especially the arbitrary ones we try to draw between our religious and mundane lives. As your relationship with them grows, you may find it intruding into everyday activities like what you wear or what you eat or what kind of media you consume and a whole host of seemingly unrelated things. Through these choices we shape who we are and what our life consists of which determines what is drawn into our sphere or repulsed by it. This is especially so with Gods and Spirits – each of whom operate at different “frequencies” (to use a metaphor I don’t at all care for) thus requiring different things of us in order to be attuned to them. However, just as we should not infer from the wants of one divinity the desires of the rest, we must not make the error of assuming that that divinity will necessarily want the same things of all people. Just because a fellow member of the tradition has specific prescriptions and prohibitions does not mean that you will be saddled with them too or that you are somehow better or worse than them for it. Are you doing what the Gods and Spirits want of you? That is all that matters.

And how you can tell is by paying attention. How do you feel while doing a particular act, especially within a ritual context? How do you feel afterwards? Do certain things regularly occur as a result of it? How does this impact your feeling of closeness or distance to the God or Spirit? Do your thoughts consistently, perhaps even obsessively, turn to certain things? Do you have a positive or negative emotional response to such thoughts? How you answer can give you a pretty good sense of where you’re at with regard to purity requirements, though it’s usually a good idea to get confirmation through divination before codifying something as part of your practice. However, a word of warning: there is a huge gulf between suspecting something and having it come up through div. Don’t ask unless you are prepared to act accordingly. You may or may not be held accountable if you’re just fumbling around in the dark – but intentionally breaking a known taboo can bring with it some pretty serious and unpleasant consequences.

Once you have a sense of who you want to focus on in the Starry Bull pantheon (and it’s fine if you don’t feel a strong attraction to any single member or are just equally drawn to all of them) and have worked out the parameters of your relationships (or as much as you can at that point) it’s just a matter of honoring them regularly and refining your technique. Each divinity has many paths of devotion and all can take you to fabulous places with them so keep exploring and experimenting and trying to do it better, whatever it is. In particular strive to make your worship a thing of beauty and artistry – our Gods and Spirits are aesthetes and appreciate that extra effort. Mind you, they are also ferocious and chthonic so their standards may be a bit skewed, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them!