Powerful. Heartrending.

I sit in class and listen to my professor a kind, erudite, and educated man call my gods ‘stupid’. To the south a man lays down his life when Christians demand he desecrate his shrines. I sit in classes and argue with seminarians who tell me polytheists never had theology And in Syria a girl […]

via Enough — Gangleri’s Grove

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Star Trek for Pagans: Klingon religion across the Series(es), Part 3 of 3

This is your only SPOILER WARNING for this article. I will be going very deeply into these episodes, so don’t read if you haven’t seen them and want to be surprised.

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VOY: Barge of the Dead

B’lanna Torres has a near-death experience, after a shuttle accident (which seem to happen with disturbing frequency in Voyager!) during which she has a vivid vision of the Klingon afterlife. During the first part of the episode, it seems like she actually had come out of the accident no worse for wear, but it was really the Naj, the dream before dying. Her mind created an illusion that she was still alive, and Kortar, the first Klingon, had to enter her mind and kill her “friends”, to drag her soul to the Barge of the Dead. The scene where he does so is quite chilling.

Suddenly B’lanna finds herself on the Barge of the Dead, when a few moments before she believed she was in the Mess Hall of Voyager. A couple of Klingons grab bargedead_149her and attempt to brand her cheek with a mark of the dishonored (the normal three-armed Klingon symbol, but reversed), but it won’t take. She is told that it isn’t her time.

The kos’karii live in the River of Blood that the Barge of Dead sails on the way to Gre’thor, the abode of the dishonored dead. They attempt to lure the dishonored souls with the voices of their loved ones and friends calling for help, and when the soul leaps from the Barge of the Dead, the kos’karii are implied to devour them. What is stated is that “there are things here that are worse than death”. The Underworld(s) in several pre-Christian mythologies were sometimes depicted with innumerable traps for the soul that would have to be avoided, often with the knowledge of how to do so being dispensed in the Mysteries of certain Deities, such as Demeter and Persephone in the Eleusinian Mysteries, or Dionysos in the Orphic Tradition, both of which hail from Greece.

Barge_of_the_Dead_-_Torres_and_KotarThe pilot of the ship, Kortar, is the first Klingon, who killed the Gods Who created him and was condemned to ferry the souls of the dishonored to Gre’thor in punishment. Condemned by Who, I wonder? I think that implies that Kortar didn’t kill all the Gods in the Klingon pantheon, just the Creator-Gods. SOMEBODY had to send him to the afterlife to steer the Barge of the Dead. B’lanna told Kortar that she didn’t believe in him anymore, and his response is “If you didn’t still believe, you wouldn’t be here.” She sees her mother on the Barge of the Dead, being condemned to Gre’thor.

While there, B’lanna gets a cut across the palm of her of hand, itself a significant positioning, since in many Klingon rituals that require a small bloodletting, this is the part of the body that is usually shown as cut. When she awakens, revived in Sickbay, she has a cut across her palm in the same place. Searching for a meaning in all of this, she read the Klingon sacred texts, the paq’batlh scrolls (literally “the book of honor” in Ancient Klingonese). The Eleventh Tome of Klavek told the story that Kahless descended into Gre’thor to find his brother and deliver him to Sto-Vo-Kor, and when Kahless returned to the world of the living, he had a wound from what had happened as “a warning that what he had experienced was real”, just as B’lanna had. She also discovered that her mother was being condemned because of B’lanna’s rejection of everything Klingon, the sins of the child being borne by the parent that raised them.

bargedead_174.jpgAfter studying the scrolls, B’lanna becomes convinced that she must return to the Barge of the Dead to save her mother’s soul. She concocted a plan to that required her to be placed in an induced coma to perform a ritual while on the Barge, but obviously the Captain is not enthused with this idea.

I’ll admit that I was delighted to see Deep Space Nine address religion and faith, and Voyager has done it a few times over the course of the show, too. If there’s anything to complain about here, I do wish we’d gotten more of an exploration of the clash between religion and science. That was my favorite part of this episode: watching Janeway and B’Elanna clash over what B’Elanna has a right to do onboard Voyager. It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? To everyone else, B’Elanna experienced something emotional and personal, but otherwise not a demonstrable phenomenon. Therefore, asking to be put back into a coma seems absurd to them. To B’Elanna, however, it is the only way to alleviate the guilt that she feels for turning her back on her mother and her Klingon culture. Janeway would be denying her – as B’Elanna put it – the chance for her mother to be proud of her in the same way that Janeway was. YEAH, THAT’S HEAVY1.

So yeah, Janeway is swayed to B’lanna’s side and eventually allows it. B’lanna’s very human boyfriend, Tom Paris, is understandably not happy about the plan and tries to convince her not to go through with it. He begs her not to go through with it, saying “There’s got to be an easier way for you to explore your spirituality. Go to bargedead_201.jpgchurch, or something? …. Look, I’ll read the scrolls. I’ll learn Klingon. We’ll figure this out together.” Of course most people in our dominant culture will most likely view Paris as the voice of reason. While it’s easy to emphasize with his fear of losing his loved one, and his surprise at her sudden change, those of us with spiritual and religious inclinations have probably heard objections like this before. Those of us with close ties to our Gods and spirits know that sometimes, religion isn’t easy, and the Gods can make demands on us that aren’t comfortable. The non-spiritual character is making the modern assumption that spirituality and the spiritual world exists for man, for mankind, that the Gods and spirits are there to make our lives better. They’ve not. This is a distinctly un-Pagan view. The Gods and spirits exist independent from us, and we can be enriched by contact with and worship of them, but they do not exist for us. They just ARE.

Anyway. B’lanna’s plan was to exchange her soul for her mother’s before they arrived at the gates of Gre’thor, and then her crew would resuscitate her, thereby cheating death. Significantly, in this experience, B’lanna is wearing Klingon armor instead of her Starfleet uniform, like the first time. This can be taken in two different bargedead_241.jpgways. It can be seeing seen as a sign of believing or not believing that the experience is really happening. Starfleet officers, after all, are trained to look at the universe with a skeptical eye, rather than spiritual. It could also be interrupted as evidence of B’lanna beginning to accept her Klingon heritage; but she is not all the way there, clearly, because her plan is very dishonorable.

B’lanna’s mother, Miral, refuses to “cheat [her] way into Sto-Vo-Kor”, and furthermore Kortar tells B’lanna that he’s aware of her planned trick. Backed into a bargedead_147.jpgcorner, B’lanna says she will die for her mother, no tricks. She sacrifices herself and her mother is released to Sto-Vo-Kor when B’lanna walks into . What follows is a long, extended dream sequence exploring B’lanna’s inner turmoil, her self-hatred, all in a dark mirror of Voyager. What?! That’s right, she’s told that Gre’thor, her personal hell, is Voyager. Ouch. That’s kind of heart-breaking if you think about it, she has a lot of people back there who care about and love her. She tries to protest, “I don’t consider Voyager hell,” but hell-Neelix laughs at her. “You thought 70 years on this ship would be hard? Try eternity.”

Is she trying to convince herself? Does she hate where she is? Who she is? The idea that she’ll be stuck in that place for 50 years? The story’s stance seems to be that if Voyager is hell, it’s because B’Elanna hasn’t been able to do enough to make it more than that. She keeps everyone at “arm’s length,” says an image of Harry. “Even Tom, who you claim to love.”

I suspect that a big part of her problem is in trying to live up to expectations when she isn’t sure whether she’s being true to herself in trying to meet such expectations that have been forced upon her. In a crucial scene on the barge, B’Elanna confronts images of her mother and her shipmates. She pleads with them: “What do you want?” Her mother responds, “Who are you asking?” B’Elanna doesn’t know. She’s probably asking everyone.

Just who is B’Elanna Torres? It’s a question she needs to answer herself, rather bargedead_282.jpgthan feeling compelled to exist as a functional unit for some organization or another person. In doing so, she needs to open herself to others. She generally won’t let people see inside, and I see this quest as her own way of telling herself she should try.

Having B’Elanna’s life hang in jeopardy through this near-death journey is milked for perhaps a bit of routine, unnecessary suspense, but in context it makes sense and provides the story with a way of taking the character through the journey she’s found so difficult to travel. Even B’Elanna’s choice to go through with the near-death simulation highlights her adamant tendency for total independence; Tom tries to convince her to find another way. “We’ll figure this out—together,” he pleads. “Next time,” she says. She needs to do it alone.

As a quest of a character, this is all truly compelling stuff. Here’s a person boxed inside herself by a deeply repressed identity crisis. Constantly trying to live up to the expectations of the moment, unsure of whether she’s human, Klingon, Starfleet, Maquis, lover, daughter, a melding of some or all of the above, she has essentially cut off her private torment from those she is closest to. She finally admits to herself that she is tired of fighting. The lesson here, I think, is to embrace vulnerability to overcome it, rather than burying it under a tough, stubborn facade.

It’s also interesting that B’Elanna’s decision to simulate a near-death experience to save her mother is considered by her mother (or the image of her mother, rather) as choosing the “easy way.” Digging deeper, this says to me that B’Elanna’s turmoil runs so unconsciously deep that it requires her almost dying before she can at last fully confront it.

Essentially, this story reveals B’Elanna as a long-tortured, conflicted, private, complex character who is still looking to understand herself. The episode is about the growth she experiences only when she truly turns inward and confronts these tough questions. It’s rare to get a character show where we feel we truly understand an individual with such complex layers, which is what makes this outing so special.

“Barge of the Dead” is punctuated by a wonderful visual sense—sometimes appropriately dark and creepy—and the typically compelling cinematics of director Mike Vejar. Noteworthy are the good transitional elements, like the thoughtful way B’Elanna stares at the cut on her hand from one scene to the next, pondering its meaning; or the way B’Elanna is physically attacked (repeatedly “killed”) with a bat’leth—usually by Tuvok—used as the story’s way of switching from one plane of the apparent afterlife to another2.

B’lanna is a sadly underutilized and unexplored character in Voyager. In the first few seasons she’s the angry engineer lady, and in the later seasons she’s suddenly softened by being in luuuuuurrrrrvvveee, which I’m not sure I like the implications of, but whatever. And her bushy Klingon eyebrows were inexplicably tamed as soon as the writers decided to put her in a relationship (I guess in the effort to make her more “attractive”?) but that’s neither here nor there, it’s just something I noticed that kind of bugged me. But there are a few really good episodes that explore her Klingon heritage, including Faces, Day of Honor, Linage, and Prophecy, but this is one of my all-time favorites. I love dream sequences, which are often loaded with symbolism if they are done well. Dreams give us so much insight into ourselves, the way our mind works, and can be a place where we make contact with the Gods and spirits that inhabit this world with us. Its interesting to me that so many Star Trek fans who were doing reviews of the episodes have said that they hate dream sequences. My guess is those are people who are more logical-brained types who are unlikely to be spiritual, and so not really “get” the stories involved. Anyway, I think that by the end of this episode B’lanna has finally (for the most part), accepted herself, and that’s what her journey was about, but there could be varying interpretations. Obviously the relationship with her mother is a primary theme. But the end of her “vision” tells us the most about B’lanna’s inner conflict. She doesn’t know who she is, and as much as she pretends she doesn’t care what others think of her, her arguments with the dream-crew plainly show that is not true. She is so afraid of rejection, that she pushing everyone away before they have a chance to reject her. Because at least that way she’s the one in control.

(Torres takes the bat’leth and holds it to Tuvok’s throat.)
TORRES: You want me to fight? You want me to be a good little Klingon? Is that it?
JANEWAY: You’ve let your anger consume you. Now it’s consuming us.
SEVEN: She’s condemned us all.
EMH: Misery loves company.
TORRES: Get away from me.
KIM: Or what? You’ll kill us where we stand?

TORRES: Tell me what you want me to be. A good Starfleet officer? A good Maquis? Lover? Daughter? Just tell me what you want from me.
MIRAL: We don’t want anything from you, B’Elanna.
JANEWAY: We only want you.
NEELIX: We’re not your enemies.
PARIS: Defend yourself.
TORRES: I don’t know how. I’m so tired of fighting.
JANEWAY: We know.
(Torres throws the bat’leth into the ocean, falls to her knees.)
MIRAL: You’ve taken the first step of your journey.
TORRES: And what about you?
MIRAL: We will see each other again.
TORRES: In Sto-Vo-Kor.
MIRAL: Yes, in Sto-Vo-Kor. Or, maybe, when you get home3.

In the vision, when B’lanna throws the bat’leth into the ocean, it was not a rejection of everything Klingon, as it might have been if she had done it at the beginning of this episode. No, it was a release of her anger, of her hard facade, the lie that she doesn’t care and doesn’t need anyone which she has worked so hard at keeping up all her life. As B’lanna says “I’m so tired of fighting.” Miral implies, in typical shamanic fashion, that this is just the beginning. She has much work left to do. That last line from Torres’ mother also implies that that she is NOT really dead, that this is NOT really the Barge of the Dead, and that it was all an hallucination in B’lanna’s head. But, in typical Star Trek fashion, we never get an answer and we can make our own decisions.

(a nice note: several seasons later, when B’lanna and Tom Paris get married and have a child, they name her Miral after B’lanna mother.)

 

DS9: Sons of Mogh
Worf is called to the docking bay by Odo, DS9’s Chief to Security, to see an “inebriated Klingon” that is demanding to talk to him. It turns out to be his brother Kurn. When ds9-sonsofmogh4.jpgWorf opposed the Klingon invasion of Cardassia and sided with the Federation, Chancellor Gowron stripped Worf’s entire family of their honor. That meant that Kurn was ejected from the High Council, lost his honor, his position, his lands and holdings, everything, because of his brother’s position. As a Klingon, he had nothing left to live for. Kurn had come to Deep Space Nine to ask his brother to perform the Mok’ta’var ritual, a ritual suicide the would restore his honor.

At first, Worf is ready to perform the ritual his brother requests. He started to carry it out in his quarters, but they were interrupted with Jadzia Dax realized what they are doing. Dax figured it out because of an offhand comment that Quark, the Ferengi bartender, made about the type of incense that Worf bought from him. Dax had more experience with Klingon culture than any other non-Klingon on the station, and when Odo told her that Worf’s brother was on the station, she knew instantly what was going on. She called security and they were able to get to Worf’s quarters in time to save Kurn’s life, just after he was stabbed, but still able to be treated.

Of course Captain Sisko was furious. Deep Space Nine was not a Klingon station; to the Federation, this ritual was murder. To Worf and other Klingons, this was a private matter. But as Sisko said, he gave them a lot of leeway with Klingon rituals and traditions, there’s a limit to respecting the cultural diversity of his officers, and this one stepped over the line! By the time that Kurn woke up in the Infirmary, Worf had changed his mind. Worf claimed he did not decide to stop the ritual, but was stopped by Dax and Odo. Kurn demanded to know why Worf did not fight Dax and Odo harder, did not threaten to kill them for interfering, or have the knife with him ready to plunge into his heart on the surgical bed. Kurn: “For a moment, in your quarters, during the ritual you were Klingon. But your Federation life has claimed you again, and now it claiming me. I have no life. I have no death. Whatever is to become of me, is up to you.”

Of course, this is somewhat hypocritical, since Worf had himself asked Commander Riker to help him perform the Heq’bath ceremony in the TNG episode “Ethics”. The Heq’bath is another form of ritualized suicide. According to The Star Trek Encyclopedia:

“Literally translated as “The Time To Die,” the Hegh’bat ceremony was a Klingon ritualized suicide. Klingon tradition held that when a Klingon was unable to stand and face his enemies, he should choose the Hegh’bat. The rite called for the eldest son of the celebrant, or a trusted friend, to deliver a ritual knife to warrior, who would impale himself in the chest. The son or friend would then remove the knife and wipe it on his sleeve4.”

At that point, Worf’s spine was broken, and a Klingon who can no longer stand has no reason to live. Worf only survived thanks to an experimental treatment that regenerated his spinal tissue. And yes, this apparently means that Klingons have more than one suicide ritual, apparently the Hegh’bat for the severely wounded, and the Mok’ta’var to restore honor to someone completely without hope of earning honor and glory back in this life.

Worf tries to find a new purpose for Kurn by getting him a job with the Bajorant5mIbVUsNAuTgIHWaB2BbYgVZ2F security force. At first it seems to be working out. He does his job well and seems to be adjusting. But when he discovered contraband in one of the ship inspections, Kurn let himself get shot. He wanted to die in the line of duty; a sure way into Sto-Vo-Kor. Unfortunately for him, the man shooting was a terrible shot and he survived. As a result, Odo kicked him off of his team. His death wish could get others killed.

Eventually, it became clear to Worf that Kurn could never be happy outside of the Empire. Eventually he would kill himself, and if he did not do it in the context of a ritual with another Klingon present, his soul would not go to Sto-Vo-Kor. But as Kurn said, “Even if I am cast down into the Underworld, at least I would be with other Klingons, even if they are the dishonored dead.” Worf had Starfleet and his human and Federation friends to sooth the lost of his honor among his people on Qo’Nos. Kurn had nothing left.

Worf made a great sacrifice to give Kurn what he needed. Doctor Bashir wiped Kurn’s memory, and performs cosmetic surgery to change his appearance as well as a procedure that would alter his genetic structure. Worf arranged for Noggra, a friend of their father, to take Kurn in and provide him with a new identity. When Kurn wakes up, he is told that his name is Rodek, and that his memory has been lost because of being hit by an energy discharge on their damaged shuttle. Noggra, his new father, tells him he will re-teach him everything he needs to know. As he leaves, Kurn-Rodek asks Worf if he is a member of his family. Worf responds stoically, “I have no family.”

Worf found a way to be a Klingon, to respect Klingon beliefs and rituals, and his brother’s needs, in a human way. As Worf told Dax in this episode, “I have lived with humans for so long, I no longer think like a Klingon. For a long time, I have tried to walk the line between the Empire and the Federation. I told myself that I could live in either world, that it was my choice. But the truth is, I cannot go back to the Empire.” Worf could not bring himself to literally kill his brother. But symbolically he did kill his brother Kurn, and he was reborn into a new life as Rodek. Kurn could not live with his dishonor, but Worf was able to essentially reincarnate him into a new, honorable life.

 

VOY: Prophecy

Voyager runs into a ship of Klingons in the Delta Quadrant, that set out from Qo’noS prophecy_076.jpgover a century ago, before the Federation and the Klingon Empire made peace. Their Captain becomes convinced that B’lanna Torres, who is pregnant, is carrying the kuvah’magh, a savior that would lead them to a new home. They were from a sect of Klingons that believed that the old Empire was corrupt and lost its way. Their ancestors found a sacred scroll, which told them to set out to on a journey to the a distant part of the galaxy. Since when they find the kuvah’magh they are supposed to “cast off the old ways” as soon as they found the kuvah’magh. The Klingons destroy their ship, which they see as the last vestige of the old Empire. So now Voyager is overcrowded, crewmembers doubled up in quarters, and the Starfleet crew is outnumbered by the Klingons.

This episode displays a couple of interesting aspects of Klingon religion. My favorite is probably the Plea for the Dead. This is a prayer to Kahless to remember and protect the recently dead ancestors. Kohlar, the Captain of these Klingons, states that the dead cannot rest in Sto-Vo-Kor if the living do not remember them. These Klingons apparently perform a plea for the dead every day at midday. This was never seen before on Star Trek, or referred to. It may be an older tradition, since this is a generation ship of Klingons that set out more than a hundred years ago.

When Kohlar began the Plea for Dead, he laid out a cloth on the ground and took to one knee. As he prayed, “Kahless, we implore you to remember those warriors who have fallen in your name. Lift them out of the Cavern of Despair, and reveal yourself to them, in all your glory. Remember ___, son of ___ . Remember ____, daughter of Plea_for_the_dead.jpg_____.” B’lanna began to repeat the words, which she had not prayed since she was a child, but still remembered. This either means that the prayer is well-known among Klingons, or that B’lanna’s mother comes from a more orthodox tradition. Ancestor veneration, of course, is very common in Pagan religions, ancient and modern.

This reliance on prophecy is not typically standard in Klingon society, but these Klingons appear to me to be a more orthodox religious sect. Usually, prophecies are more related to Bajoran religion in Star Trek, rather than with Klingons. Nevertheless, there are a lot of interesting parallels that line up with B’lanna’s life. The mother of the kuvah’magh would be an off-worlder (B’lanna was born on a Federation colony), and have lived a life of hardship and solitude. She would also have won a great victory against an army of 10,000 warriors, which Kohlar interprets to mean the Borg. The prophecy also said “You will know me before I know the world. You will follow in my footsteps before I made them.” Its easy to see why it was interpreted to mean that they would find a woman who was pregnant with the kuvah’magh, instead of meeting the kuvah’magh themselves.

The most interesting thing about the prophecy though, is that it was from hybrid stem cells of B’lanna Torres’ baby is responsible for healing all the Klingons from a retro-virus they called the Neret. All of them carried the Neret, and it was eventually responsible for all their deaths. The scrolls said “I am younger than old age, stronger than sickness.” Some of the Klingon were angry with Kohlar for not telling them that B’lanna was only half Klingon until after they had destroyed their vessel. But it turns out that it was the very fact that B’lanna’s child was of mixed human and Klingon ancestry that made it possible for them to healed. If the kuvah’magh had been a pure-blooded Klingon, as some of them believed she should be, they would still be sick. In typical Star Trek fashion, you are left to decide what you want to believe, just like in the Barge of the Dead.

 

Important Klingon Concept

I just really wanted to include this bit and wasn’t sure where to put it.

In DS9’S “Soldiers of the Empire”, Worf states that Martok had saved his life when they were both held in a Dominion prison camp. Captain Sisko was surprised, and asked why it wasn’t in the report. When Worf said was personal and didn’t belong on an official report, Sisko wanted a better explanation.

Worf: You know that I was forced to fight the Jem’Hader guards at the camp. Each day they would call me to the ring, and each day I would fight. But there came a day when I wavered.

Sisko: You mean you didn’t want to go back into the ring?

Worf: No, I mean I considered letting them kill me. It seemed like the only way out. Just before I went into the ring, Martok turned to wish me success, and then he saw what I was planning. He saw it in my eyes. It was moment of To’va D’vk. …. There is no human word for it. It is moment of clarity between two warriors on the field of battle. Much is said without the need for words. In that moment he knew what was in my mind. Once I realized he saw my intention to give up, I could no longer go through with it. I went back into the ring and fought once more. He had given me his Warrior’s Heart. … Perhaps it is something a human cannot understand.

KLINGON PROVERBS AND SAYINGS

Today is a good day to die.

Only a fool fights in a burning house.

4,000 throats may be cut in one night by a running man.

Great men do not seek power; They have power thrust upon them.

A fool and his head are soon parted.

Destroying an Empire to win a war is no victory. And ending a battle to save an Empire is no defeat.

A leader is judged not by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes.

If you cannot control yourself, you cannot command others

Death is an experience best shared.

A sharp knife is nothing without a sharp eye.

Pity the warrior who slays all his foes.

Even the best blade will rust and grow dull unless it is cared for.
A warrior does not let a friend face danger alone.

There is no victory without combat.

The battle is never over as long as one of the enemy yet lives.
Glory comes from unexpected sources.
Opportunity is the partner of every warrior, if only he is wise enough to meet it.
The patient warrior is rewarded.
Even the most prepared and cunning warrior may die.

A terrible secret cannot be kept.

Only a fool stands before the wind.

Why Do I like Klingons So Much? What Does All This Mean To Me?
Why do I like Klingons so much? Why, out of all the various religions in the Star Trek universe, did I pick the Klingons to inaugurate my Star Trek for Pagans series? What does all this fictional religious symbolism mean to a modern Pagan?

Klingons were the first image of a warrior culture, a warrior ethic, that I was introduced to as a child. I was raised with my mother’s version of Christianity, which is bloodless and dispassionate. Emotions were looked at with distaste, especially anything having to do with the body or aggression. Jesus told his disciples that if you are struck, to “turn the other cheek” to their attacker. I did not read Viking mythology until late into my teenage years, although I found the Greek Gods and took my first fumbling steps towards worshiping them when I was somewhere around 14 years old.

I’m not a pacifist. While I have never been to war, my patron Goddess, Athena, is not just the Goddess of scholars but the Goddess of warriors as well. Odin, too, has become important to me in the last few years. In many ways, Klingon philosophy felt more natural than Christian to my childish mind, although I did not have the words to articulate it at the time. Humans have evolved from predators. We are predators. Denying this fact is the height of folly. Forcing our instincts into a mold that they were not meant for could actually be dangerous when they eventually explode, and even if there is not an exploration with collateral damage, it is certainly unhealthy and likely to lead to a lot of inner turmoil and distress at the very least.

ef69d60d27a7ef84580c8b34138a7617--port-cosplay.jpgThe Klingon system might be seen as unnecessarily harsh, but they bound by strict codes of laws and honor that hold the violence in check (most of the time). Considering how popular the Klingons are with the fans of Star Trek, both in the cosplay and convention circuit, and in the novels and tie-in stuff, they clearly speak to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because our own culture is trying to hard to wussify everything and emasculate men (sorry, it’s true. Yes, I’m a feminist, but still.) Maybe its because the Klingons have a lust for life, a vim and verve and vigor that animates everything they do. They may not be well-mannered, but when you may die tomorrow, you become determined to wring every once of joy and love and warmth and pleasure and yes, honor, out of an unforgiving and often cruel universe. It’s hr_the_hobbit-_an_unexpected_journey_1probably the same reason I prefer the Dwarves to Elves in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, because they seem so alive. And isn’t that what we all want?

So, what else is there to say? Grab a mug (or a barrel) of bloodwine, find your par’Mach’kai (mate) and party with your brothers-in-arms, because Kahless willing you may join him in Sto-Vo-Kor soon!

 

1http://markwatches.net/reviews/2017/04/mark-watches-voyager-s06e03-barge-of-the-dead/

2http://www.jammersreviews.com/st-voy/s6/barge.php

3http://www.chakoteya.net/Voyager/602.htm

4Okuda, Michael and Denise. The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future. Pocket Books. 1997.

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Ozark Encyclopedia – F – Feathers

I found an awesome blog full of Ozark folklore, including the uses for things like herbs and such. A great source of info regarding traditional American magic and folkways. Anyone interested in such things should go check it out.

Mountain Man Traditional Healing

Chicken feathers burned under bed to stop bleeding during childbirth – “After the babe is delivered, some hillfolk burn a handful of chicken feathers under the bed, as this is supposed to stop hemorrhage.” ~Randolph OMF 201

Feather bed against colds – “My grandfather still sleeps on a feather bed twelve months a year. This, he declares, is the reason he never catches a cold.” ~Parler FBA II 1782

Feathers burned for bowels – “Put feathers in a pot and place a hot coal down in it so the feathers will smoulder. If you sit on this, it will make your bowels move.” ~Parler FBA II 1914

Turkey feather used for diphtheria – “After the doctor gave me up with diphtheria, my grandmother stripped a long turkey feather down until there was a small duster on the end. She ran this down my throat and brought it out with a…

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Ludi Romani

In Rome the Ludi Romani were celebrated from September 5th to the 19th. This two-week festival was the oldest games and were established to celebrated Jupiter Optimus Maximus. In the midst of the festival, on the 13th, a feast is held in honor of the triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. On that day in 509 B.C.E. a temple to Jupiter the Best and Greatest – for that is the translation of Opitmus Maximus – was dedicated. After the sacrifice a lavish feast was held, with the best possible food and wine, and attended by musicians and entertainment. All the senators would come to feast, and the statues of the three Gods it was held for were brought out of the Temple, dressed in fine clothes, and sat at the table. Jupiter always reclined on a couch but Juno and Minerva were given chairs. (see Classical Living by Frances Berestein P.hD)

Perhaps the 13th would be a good day to hold a Theoxenia banquet in their honor.

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Fall and The Eleusinian Mysteries

So this is the week of the historical Eleusinian Mysteries, which by my calculations started yesterday and will continue until Monday the 11th. The Hellenic Pagan group Hellenion has their monthly communal libation this Saturday, naturally to Demeter and Persephone this month.

Fall is upon us now. Although in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year fall starts at the beginning of August on Lammas, here in Missouri August is still summer. It is still hot. Now, the temperatures are finally cooling off. It was 47 degrees last night at its coldest. Out here on the hill, those more sensitive to the cold are starting to use their woodburning stoves. I am actually enjoying the coolness and will most likely not fire up the stove until October. I will need to clean it out sometime this month. The leaves have not begun to turn yet, but that cannot be far behind. It’s time to start preparing the homestead for winter. In the words of the Starks of Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming.

Reposted from GMC: Demeter, September 2016

Let this sacred tale of mother and daughter, possibly the most powerful of all the classical myths, serve as an introduction to the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, held in the last half of September, and to the Thesmophoria, which occurred shortly thereafter. This sacred and truly feminine myth delves deep into the earth, into nature, and into our psyches, drawing strength from ageless archetypes. This is a story of loss, grief, and suffering[1]

Of the Mysteries themselves we know very little, for the initiates kept their oaths of secrecy well. We know, however, much about the rituals that led up to the Greater Mysteries. The week-long Eleusinian Mysteries, held in late September or early October (again, a perfect “coincidence” with which God comes up for the God of the Month Club!), began with a gathering in Athens, as the prospective initiates prepared for the fourteen-mile walk to Eleusis. The sacred objects had been bought from Eleusis to Athens, to be shown to crowd of waiting celebrants, and to be escorted back to Eleusis by the hopeful initiates. They purified themselves in the salt water of the sea, and each initiate sacrificed a piglet they had bought to Demeter. Only then did they begin their long fourteen-mile walk along the Sacred Way to Eleusis, those chosen to carry the sacred objects leading the way.  They carried torches, as Demeter did in Her search for Persephone. But the tone was not one of mourning, but of joyous celebration.

demeter_ceres_greek_goddess_art_15_by_jynette_tignerIt is difficult for many of us today to imagine thousands of initiates, both male and female, slave and free, traveling weeks or even months, bearing the hardships of a lengthy and costly land or sea voyage, journeying from all over the Mediterranean world to pay homage to an exclusively female relationship, that of Demeter and her dear daughter Persephone. And it is beyond our experience to have a state supported holiday during which for nearly two weeks all work and business yielded… to the celebration of the Divine Feminine. Yet that is exactly what happened[2].

When they arrived at Eleusis, they participated in another ritual bath in the nearby river. When the first star of the evening rose, they began a two-day fast, just as Demeter did. Celibacy was mandatory, in sympathy for Demeter’s barrenness and loneliness without Her daughter.

The Mysteries themselves took place after this two-day fast. A building called the Telesterion had been built just for the purpose of the Mysteries, and it was not used in the rest of the year. It was a large, windowless hall that held thousands of people in rows of seats. As I said before, there is not much known of what happened here. We know that there were things said, things done, and things shown, and that the emphasis was on the things shown, but nothing really about what these things were. The only original sources to tell us what happened there were written by Christian authors in furious protests against Pagan religions, so what they had to say is obviously extremely suspect. There has been much speculation by many scholars, but little fact.

We do know that after the rituals of the Mysteries were concluded, the initiates walked into the nearby Rharian Field. There, “they repeatedly invoked Hue! Cue! (Rain! Conceive!). It was called the Mystical Formula… and the Neoplatonist Proclus reports that the Priest looked to the Heavens when calling the first word, and towards the Earth when calling the second[3].”

Likewise, we know which Gods and heroes were worshiped at Eleusis, the chief ones being, obviously, Demeter and Kore, “the Maiden”. They are often called simply “the demeter_reliefTwo Goddesses”. The second pair depicted was Persephone and Her husband Haides under His name of Plouton, “wealth”. Kore and Persephone are the same Goddess, in Her forms as Spring Maiden and Queen of the Dead, but these forms are so opposite that She was often split into two. The King and Queen of the Underworld were here called simply “the God” and “the Goddess”. Martin P. Nilsson, the author of Greek Folk Religion, observed that when it was obvious Who they were talking about, the Greeks tended to just say “the Goddess” or “the God” instead of names. So at Athens “the Goddess” meant Athena, and at Delphi Apollon was referred to as “the God.” At Eleusis, “the God and Goddess” are Haides-Plouton and Persephone. In addition, mortal heroes were added to the pantheon of Deities and spirits honored at Eleusis, which Nilsson elaborates on:

To each of these two pairs a hero is added, and so we get two triads: Demeter, Kore, and Triptolemos; and “the God”, “the Goddess”, and Eubouleus. They are seen on an Attic relief found at Mondragone near Sinuessa in Italy, with the addition of a seventh figure clad in a Dionysiac costume – boots and fawnskin. He is Iacchos. Iacchos is a personification of the Iacchic cry heard in the great procession which went from Athens to Eleusis in order to celebrate the Mysteries. The gay revels, the merry cries, and the light of the torches in this procession were reminiscent of the festivals of Dionysus, and the name of Iacchos suggested the second name of this god, Bacchos. So Iacchos was represented in the likeness of Dionysus. But he is a later creation, who owes his existence to the procession mentioned; that is to say, he cannot be older than the incorporation of Eleusis into the Athenian state, and he was created at the earliest in the sixth century B.C. There is no question of Dionysiac elements in the Eleusinian Mysteries at an early age, but we shall see that from the late fifth and early fourth centuries B.C., there was a certain mixing up of the Mysteries of Eleusis and the cult of Dionysus[4].

Triptolemos is barely mentioned in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter as one of several Eleusinian noblemen. Apollodorus is credited with saying that Triptolemos was one of the eldest Eleusinian princes[5], and that Demeter gave him a chariot drawn by dragons to help him spread the secrets of agriculture. The story was picked up by others[6]. Eubouleus is not mentioned in the original Homeric Hymn to Demeter at all, but is found in later sources. The story goes that he was a herdsman tending his herd of swine when Haides came to kidnap Persephone. When the earth opened up, his herd was lost as the pigs fell into the chasm. This myth likely came k26-1ploutosabout to explain why pigs were sacrificed to Demeter. Diodorus of Sicily actually said the Euboulos was a son of Demeter[7], perhaps meant symbolically. According to some, Demeter and Her mortal lover Iasion, when they lay together in a thrice-plowed field, She bore the Ploutos[8], the demi-God of agricultural wealth. This is pretty interesting, considering Plouton was another name of Haides. Also fathered by Iasion is Philometes-Bootes[9], the inventor of the wagon and plough. So although Persephone may be Demeter’s most beloved child, She had many children, most of them agricultural heroes and demi-Gods.

Demeter and Persephone, having defeated death and returned from the Underworld, offer hope of a better future. The Greeks believed that those initiated into the Mysteries had a better fate in the afterlife, bound for a more joyous place than gloomy Haides. This no doubt did much to spread the popularity of the Mysteries.

Aristophanes in The Frogs introduces a chorus of mystae in the scene which is laid in the underworld. …. The mystae dance and revel in a meadow strewn with flowers. This conviction of a happier lot in the Underworld, which filled the minds of the initiated, sprang from ancient roots, the world-wide idea that the other life is a repetition of this life.  The idea is found, for example, in the eleventh book of the Odyssey, which describes Odysseus’ visit to the underworld. The simple fact is that the initiated believed that they would continue to celebrate the Mysteries in the underworld, as Aristophanes and Euripides show them doing. Since the Mysteries were the most edifying event they knew of, such a conception of a future state formed the brightest possible contrast to the dark and gloomy Hades in which the Greeks believed[10].The most obvious interpretation of the myth of Demeter is one of seasonal change and of the harvest, with Persephone representing the seeds of the earth, which were stored in underground silos during the scorching summer months. 

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When Your God Is a Hurricane

Uncomfortable truths of worshiping the Gods, especially ones Who manifest as natural phenomenon. Nature is cruel, Nature is not only the gentle Mother of life bur the Destroyer of entire species as well.

rotwork

A few months ago I asked polytheists to ponder the question: your god is a volcano and decides to kill 40,000 people – what do you do?

Well, my God is the hurricane, and right now His names are Harvey and Irma.

I spoke with Him this week, and was told that I needed to seriously begin regular worship again. Thrice weekly, to be precise: tuesday, wednesday, and thursday are for Him now. I find His co-opting of the western calendar days interesting, as He seems to have a kind of affinity with the Norse powers whose names those days have taken. He has no qualms about using Their symbols to communicate with me where it suits Him, and here the metaphor is plain.

The timing for this is compelling, as if to say You had your time to avoid Me, to think on Me, but I will no longer…

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Third Submission to Persephone’s Agon

I ended up doing two submissions to Galina’s Persephone Agon, one poetry and visual art.

Gangleri's Grove

Devotional Collage for Persephone
by Amanda Artemisia Forrester

Persephone

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