chtonic deities

  Dionysus, god complicated and fascinating. Dionysus as a chtonic deity is very close to mother earth, that is Demeter and her dark daughter Persephone, in some myths Dionysus appears as consecutive lover of these two deities, in some other ancient narrations he’s the son of Demeter or Persephone. Truth is that Dionysus is the closest deity to Zeus himself, sometimes they are one and the same. In some very ancient variations of the myth Dionysus is Hades himself. Primordial totem animals of both Dionysus and Zeus are the bull and the snake, both animals present in mediterrenean life. Another name of Dionysus is Bacchus or else Iacchus, signifying the strong connection of the god with vegetation, he’s the seed that keeps on being regenerated, he’s also the pomegranate seeds that Hades gives to Persephone to eat so she’ll return to the underworld, so she stays there one third of the time of each year.

Dionysus with his alter ago, the holy child Iacchus, 5th century B.C.

anonymous asked:

why can´t you consume the foods your offer to chtonic deities? I live with my parents as a closet pagan cuz I can´t burn or bury the offerings, I love to offer wine for example but I do have to drink or eat food offerings because how else am I going to offer them when my parents are around 24/7. Is it really that bad, and why shouldn´t you consume your chtonic offerings?

I am about to be obnoxiously long-winded. Brace yourself.

Holy moly, anon, this question sent me into research mode. I was going to give you the cookie-cutter answer of “Food offered to the cthonic gods is considered food of the dead, and that’s bad luck to be consumed by a mortal.” but it occurred to me that this information is second-hand to me. Now that doesn’t mean it’s not accurate. It just means I’m taking the word of other polytheists (I can’t even remember specifically who), and I can do better for you.

So I started looking, and I am still looking, but let me let you in on what I have so far. I first started with a paper on Cthonic deities written by Arthur Fairbanks who, in the spirit of full disclosure, died in 1925. Still, I was skimming specifically for what he had to say about how offerings were performed, and I was being tripped up. He was focusing very heavily on propitiatory offerings, as apposed to offerings to the general household gods and gods of the city. Now, I know what a propitiation is (specifically meant to avert the anger of a god), in a general sense, but I was getting the distinct feeling that there was a Greek context for this that I was missing. Cue A Handbook of Greek Religion.  by the same author

“The ordinary sacrifice of propitiatory character differed from the communion meal in occasion, in ritual, and in the gods to whom it was offered. The communion meal offering assumed that the gods were favorable, whether it was offered when they had already signalized their favor, or before some important undertaking. On the other hand the propitiatory sacrifice meant that men felt the anger of the gods in the danger or trouble which was already on them; or again when it was offered before battle or before a voyage or before sowing grain. It was intended to pacify the possible anger of the gods before any damage had been done. The ritual was different. A black animal was ordinarily chosen; it was brought to a low mound of earth instead of the regular altar; its head was bowed toward the earth and the blood allowed to soak into the ground, for the spirits of evil were mainly spirits of the world below; most important of all it was not tasted by the worshipers but wholly burned as though the gods took pleasure in its utter destruction.”

“Instead of cakes such as men ate, a peculiar cake or porridge was made of meal, honey, and sometimes poppy seed; this was never tasted, but burned on the low altar of the spirits of the deep…And the gods were different or at least different in attitude. They were easily angered, dangerous to approach even when they had rich blessings to bestow; many times the fearful evidence they had given of their anger was the occasion for these sacrifices. In this group of divinities were included (1) the dead and those gods who were rulers of souls; (2) local spirits called heroes who were regarded in much the same way as the dead; (3) agricultural deities and; (4) many gods of the sea, river gods, and the winds. Occasionally propitiatory sacrifices were offered to some of the Olympian gods especially when some old nature deity had become merged with a god of Olympus.”

"These chthonic gods normally received propitiatory sacrifice though sometimes the communion meal offering was appropriate.

SO. Just from the small context I have so far, here is what I think is going on. Assuming Fairbanks is a still a reliable source, he’s making a distinction between propitiatory offerings and communion meal offerings (of which a worshiper would take part). Cthonic deities and the dead are NORMALLY given the former, because they were greatly feared and considered easily angered.

From what I know, that’s a common attitude for most of ancient Greek religion. Gods of the dead were and are terrifying, and in general you tried to keep their eyes off of you. Modern worshipers often take a different rout though, going so far as to dedicate themselves to cthonic dieties. Which is, I’d think, a different kind of worship than the ancients were doing when they burned up black animals to beg Hekate to turn away her wrath.

When you fly in the face of ancient worship like that, it often falls on you to forge your own, modern polytheist path. My advice would be to stay as connected in as you can to what your gods want and how they react to your offerings. Now is the time for divination. Just because you are doing things differently does not mean you are doing them wrong.


With the finished album finally in our hands, we are extremely excited to begin sharing some details of our latest work with you. Let’s begin by answering the question you’ve all been asking: Our new album is called ‘Origins’, and it will be released in just under three months - on August 1st worldwide, August 4th in England, Scotland and Ireland, and on August 5th in North America! Check out the wonderful cover artwork created by Chrigel Glanzmann below. 

We would also like to take the time to share some first insights on the lyrical and historical themes of ‘Origins’ with you. In Chrigel’s words: 

“ORIGINS deals in-depth with Celtic mythology, or to be more precise, with aetiological tales from Gaul in particular. Hence we’re facing strongly mythical as well as spiritual subjects on this album, topics which we have approached very scientifically and in cooperation with several scientists and diverse universities. Many aspects of Gaulish mythology and spirituality remain in the dark nonetheless, while others run through the theme like a golden thread - like this eminent, yet innominate god, for instance, of which the Gauls claimed to be direct descendants and which was compared to the Roman chtonic deity Dis Pater.
Today we cannot say which Gaulish god this was exactly. But according to all we know it’s likely that we’re dealing with Sucellos here. Throughout space and time he appears over and over again - from very old spiritual customs of ancient Gaulish tribes in today’s northern Spain all the way to later statues in today’s Switzerland, France and elsewhere.
Perhaps he is this mysterious nameless one.
The album cover of ORIGINS is designed after the hammer/club-shaped ‘halo’ of Sucellos, as seen on a statue, that was found in a shrine of a gallo-roman household in today’s France. It was created under the scientific supervision of experts from the university of Zürich.”