G this week, is for god.
Which god, you ask?
Sabazios (Sabazius in Latin), the Thracian Horseman, comes to mind. There are a number of excellent writings on Himself, and His worship, throughout the ancient Near East in the forms of various horse-riding deities and saints, warriors and serpents. It’s even possible to see His imagery in the common Ptolemaic (and earlier Egyptian) images of Horus spearing a hippo or crocodile from horseback, that eventually morphed into Mari Girgis or Saint George, Egypt’s patron saint.
Today, my Anomalous Thracian brother shared a link to P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ most recent and most beautiful hymn to the Horseman with me, and I knew that I had to share it with you. For those who don’t link well, I hope that PSVL doesn’t mind if I share it with you here.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
Upon his horse, he defeats serpents,
horned and hooded, vipers and pythons,
but upon the earth and within it
he is the Serpent Itself.
He passes, golden, between the breasts
of the initiates, through their hearts,
and emerges below, whether male or female
or neither, from the region of their sexes.
The burrows through the earth he makes
are the trackways to Hades and Tartaros;
the ways he clears through our hearts
are devotion and virtue and good speech.
Thracians have known this for centuries;
Bithynians and Phrygians as well,
Karians and Lykians and far-off Scythians,
Keltoi and Galatians, and even the Greeks.
Through Meroe of Nubia and Egypt,
the Samothracian isles, and ancient Canaan,
through the marbled streets of Rome
and the forests of Gaul and Germania.
From the pristine landscapes of Hyperborea
to the titan-haunted halls of Olympus
the fame of Sabazios as serpent
is older than Chronos and Kairos.
His flitting tongue upon ears
is the beginnings of prophecy;
his venom in the veins
is intoxication and madness;
his coiling around the finger
is mastery of spear and sword;
his trampling underfoot
is the beginning of liberation.
(But is it the hero who tramples him
or is it he who tramples himself?
Only the eyes of a shadow can see it,
can know it with certainty.)
Through the breasts of gods, even,
he has wound his serpentine way…
therefore, for him this day
may offerings and praise be gathered!
Dele Mezenai, Horseman bless, each and every one of you.
“Purity is piety, honesty, and fear of the gods.”
– inscription on the walls of the Ptolemaic-era temple of Horus, Edfu, Egypt
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. When the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
– the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, quoted by Frank Herbert in Dune
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
– Alexander III “the Great” of Makedon
Fear is an important concept for the modern-day Pagan who embraces the chthonic traditions of Thrace. To the Greeks, a titanismos was a Thracian battle-hymn so fierce, so filled with the terror of the sons and daughters of Nyx, that the Thracians’ enemies would simply turn and flee, if they weren’t frozen to the spot. And of Titanismos as the modern acknowledgment of our Titanic progenitors, our brother the Anomalous Thracian is fond of saying: “This is Titanismos. You should run.”
What does it really mean to have “fear of the gods,” as the Egyptian inscription instructs Horus’s priests to have? Can fear ever be a positive thing, particularly related to the idea being afraid of the Divine? What about other kinds of fear? Are they a force to be avoided, or, as the Litany quoted above suggests, could they become a weapon to use to our benefit?
The Thracian goddess Bendis may or may not be the same as the goddess Kotys or Cotyto, according to some sources. One would presume that the Lady is aware of whether or not She has more than one name or identity, but She keeps Her mysteries well. For the purposes of this entry, since we’re on the letter “B,” we’ll stick to Her Bendis persona, regardless of the answer to that mysterious question.
Bendis was also conflated with Artemis, as another fierce, singular female huntress and lunar/wild deity. She resembles Artemis a little, if you squint hard and forget that She’s using a spear or two instead of a bow, that She’s wearing a Phrygian cap and a distinct set of high-legged boots, or that She wears other different clothing, in everything from Thracian cloaks to a fox-skin hat. )
Other times, Bendis is conflated with Persephone or Selene. These associations also have their similiarities. Bendis’ ceremonies were indeed practiced at night, by Thracians and (after the Oracle of Dodona told them to) by Greeks as well. One such ceremony is mentioned as the setting for Plato’s Republic, and appears in other classical works. It is called the Bendidia.
Bendidia involved torchlight processions on horseback and revels under darkness, like those celebrated by other Thracian and Orphic deities like Sabazios and Dionysos. Bendis is sometimes accompanied, like Dionysos, by satyrs and maenads, or simply by athletes running toward Her temple.
I’d like to understand more about Bendis, but as yet, She has not granted that opportunity. Perhaps one day that will change and I will have more to say.
You should definitely see the Faces and Places of Samothraki photoblog, if you’re not familiar with Samothrace already.
One day, I will walk in this place, and it will move me even more than Sophia’s incredible photos have done.
I can’t wait.