Three Poetic Offerings

One of the reasons I decided to restart a blog was to make space for poetic offerings from the old KALLISTI, which I believe should actually be made public somewhere.

On the old KALLISTI’s post containing these three sets of verse, I prefaced the poems with this paragraph:

In the first few centuries of our Common Era, many individuals used a “sacrificial hierarchy” to designate how pure offerings were. Pure thoughts, hymns, and incense were considered more spiritually significant offerings than blood sacrifice.

The above refers to Bradbury, Scott, “Julian’s Pagan Revival and the Decline of Blood Sacrifice,” Phoenix, 49:4 (1995): 334.

Contextually, in late 2008 when I wrote these poems, there was still conversation on the Internet — and a lot of derision from blogs such as A Don’s Life — about polytheistic revivals in the West and the hecatombs of animals offered to gods in antiquity. The argument was that modern Hellenism is fluffy because it lacks those, and we should just give up now on any sort of revival or reconstruction because we can’t Do It Right™.

I argued in the original post that, given the evolution of polytheism towards a more diverse set of offerings, it shouldn’t matter if we can’t make animal sacrifice because culture changes over time, and it was already on its way out in many philosophical circles. That is still my position today, although it’s no longer a point of contention.

I. For Hermes

The god sits perched on
that pear tree, dangling sandals.
Carefree, he watches
your quick-darting hands
pluck the bowing branches’ jewels.

II. For Dionysos

Rush, agèd vine-blood,
over the parched soil, moisten
our gods’ needy lips.
Once, before the torch-bearer
presented that first
gleaming krater, all danced through
life without passion
and the gods knew not that high
offering. Then you came
from the mountainous east, hands
bearing green tendrils
while Maenads danced in circles
crying “Evohé!”
You filled our cups then, and we
repay you with praise.

III. For Apollon

I know you. You ward
your devotees from afar.
You are the brilliant
God who fastens his soft hair.
Tell me, lord of light,
what offering pleases you most?
Hunger-sating zone
Or wine splattered on icy
ground? You once enjoyed
hecatombs with votaries
whose long pilgrimage
meant a sacrifice no less
than the bulls slaughtered
on an altar bearing your name.
My skill with a knife
will not let me give what you
so rightly deserve—
Lord, consider a different
offering, a bloodless
hecatomb written to please
deathless minds and ears.
Like incense, may this give you
pleasure, radiant one.

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