On the Bakcheion and the bricolage Starry Bull pantheon

On the Bakcheion and the bricolage Starry Bull pantheon
by Sannion

When I was putting together the material for this website I toyed with a number of different names before ultimately deciding on “the Bakcheion.” The term originated with the Dionysiac cults of Roman Asia Minor and could be employed either of 1) a temple or other place of worship (such as an outdoor shrine, a grotto or clubhouse) or 2) the religious association (thiasos, speira, orgeon, et al) which used such spaces. In the broadest sense it means something devoted to bakcheia or ecstatic revelry.

Bakchos (or the Latinate form Bacchus) is not so much a name as a title, and for that matter is not one exclusively belonging to Dionysos. It could be shared by the God’s mortal devotees (there were female bakchai and male bakchoi, though both could be used inclusively) as well as other divinities such as Ariadne, Hermes, Apollon, Artemis, Kybele or the Nymphai, where it is most commonly found in its adjectival form. To be Bacchic is to be noisy, violent, dancing, orgiastic, liminal and above all else, mad.

All of the Gods and Spirits who comprise our provisional pantheon are Bacchic, even when this is not the form that most people generally deal with them in. This is also why some of the better known members of the Greek and Roman pantheons are not honored within our tradition. Now, of course, there is nothing to preclude a Starry Bull devotee from praying and making offerings to these beings should need arise, or even keeping a shrine for them on the side – as many, in fact, do since we are a non-exclusive tradition. In fact the Starry Bull tradition is polytheist in the broadest possible sense of that term since we deny the existence or right to be worshiped of no God or Spirit, even completely bullshit, made-up ones like Allah and Spider-man. It’s just that from the perspective of our tradition the less they have to do with Dionysos the less they matter to us.

Although this is a pretty decent rule of thumb for inclusion in the pantheon it is far from the only criteria. There is a story which lies at the heart of our tradition, “the Story behind all of the stories” as we call it. Direct experience of this story constitutes initiation in our tradition. (Though there is a difference between those who have had the experience and those who have had the experience and received the formal sacrament of initiation.) This story is a mystery, and yet we talk about it constantly. With each telling the plot and characters shift around, and yet it remains fundamentally the same. If it does not, it becomes a story about something other than the Starry Bull. Sometimes a story may seem to be about something else and yet beneath the surface it is really our story. Thus both Achilles and Arlecchino are Starry Bull heroes.

This is why we refer to the Starry Bull pantheon as provisional. Different Gods or Spirits can step into or out of the various roles which make up the story, as a specific plot requires. With one telling they may inhabit this persona while another time they will perform an entirely different role. All of these mythic variations are considered true and meaningful since they reveal something important to us about both the actors and the story – something that would not change even if it never actually happened (or transpired in some other, alternate reality.)

This, incidentally, is why these shrines are so source heavy. You will note that the readings for reflection have been carefully selected to emphasize very specific forms and functions and often localized expressions (predominantly Cretan, Magna Graecian and Pontic) of the divinity in question. This is what makes them Starry Bull as opposed to generic Bullfinchean Hellenic Gods.

There’s something else you can do with them – you can create your very own Starry Bull myths!

Here’s how:

Open the readings for three to six members of the pantheon and then randomly collect five to twenty quotes. (Thirty if you’re ambitious.) Arrange these fragments in whatever way you wish; for instance, you could consciously stitch them together into a narrative pattern or write them on cards and then toss those cards in the air and they will fall as the story is meant to be told. Whatever method you choose, it works better when you’re inebriated. If you’re one of us the story will make sense, if not it’ll just be gibberish.

You can also use this method for divination, because our tradition is awesome that way.