B is for Bathalà

Stress on the second syllable, glottal stop on the third. Bat-ha-lâ.

Bathala written in the baybayin script

Bathala written in the baybayin script

Not much is known about Bathalà (or at least, I don’t know much about him), but he seems to have been a very important deity to the pre-christian Tagalog tribes that, even today, Bathalà is the preferred poetic term for god (as a common noun) and “God” as in the divine father of Jesus.

Owing to the country’s deep but forgotten Hindu past, Bathalà seems to come from Sanksrit “bhattara” (noble lord), akin to Malay “betara” (holy), a title applied to the greater Hindu gods of the ancient Majapahit empire.

According to an excerpt from the Boxer Codex (1590b, 367):

They said that this god of theirs was in the air before there was heaven or earth or anything else, that he was ab eterno (from eternity) and not made or created by anybody from anything, and that he alone made and created all that we have mentioned simply by his own volition because he wanted to make something so beautiful as the heaven and earth, and that he made and created one man and one woman out of the earth, from whom have come and descended all the men and their generations that are in the world.

Bathala, though, seems to have been a creator much like Brahma (he is called Maykapál or Maker). Having fashioned the world, he retired to kaluwálhatían (a place like Olympos) and assigned the ordering and governance of the world to younger deities called anito or diwatà. He did not seem to receive regular cultus as they did, being removed far from humanity and the natural world.

He is similar to Kan-laón and Gugurang, other creator deities known to pre-colonial Filipinos.

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A depiction of Bathala by bbinibinieyebagstotz at deviantart.com

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A is also for Anthestêria

I know I should be in B by now, but turns out, I’ve got too much in my head that starts with A. Plus, I never really had the chance to blog about this year’s Anthestêria, so this seems only fitting.

I won’t go into detail, though, as many others have already written about it so beautifully (herehere, here, and here). But, as a short introduction for the uninitiated, Dver sums it up here quite well:

The first day was called Pithoigia or the “Opening of the Jars”. This was when the wine casks were opened for the first time, and masters and servants alike were allowed to taste the new wine.

The second day Khoes or “Cups” was celebrated with a great public feast, and young children were given their first drink of wine. At Dionysos’ oldest temple, the Lenaeon, the wife of the Archon Basileus “King and Ruler” was wedded to Dionysos in a Sacred Marriage. The Basilissa was thought to represent the country, and thus her wedding with Dionysos was seen as a way of uniting fertility with the land once more. It’s not sure how this was done, whether a Priest of Dionysos functioned as a stand-in for the God, or whether the Basilissa made love to the ancient phallic wooden statue that was housed in the temple, or whether her husband the Archon Basileus impersonated the God. There was a general sense of erotic expectation in the air, which may have culimnated in nocturnal orgies.

The third and final day of the festival, Khutroi or “Pots”, was entirely given over to the spirits of the dead. Sacrifices of cooked vegetables and seeds were given to Hermes and the dead.

Sannion also has a lovely set of poetry reposted here, too. I read each aloud over the three days.

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On the first day, I brought out all the wine in our house, old and new, and presented it before our household shrine. My best friend and I were lucky enough to chance on the most beautiful flowers and the sweetest grapes in the market, so we presented those, as well. After the hymns and libations, I covered up the shrine, but left out the Hermanubis (Hermês of the Underworld) and Dionysos icons. None of us got drunk, but we had a fitting feast of fruit and meats.

Interestingly, we have a festival of flowers here, too, and it occurs around the same time as Anthestêria.

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On the second day, I… I won’t tell you what happened on the second day because I’m keeping it between me and Dionysos. *wink*

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God-shrines still covered — with the exception of our shrine to Jesus (he’s died at least once, anyway!) — I prepared for the third and last day of Anthestêria. At sunset, I gathered all the beans in our house and prepared the panspermia (pottage of seeds). I offered some of it to my ancestors at the ancestor-shrine (with a generous libation of cerveza negra, no less) and took out the rest outside to the All-Dead. I turned my back and poured out honey by the doorway for Hermês.

There was no pitch to smear on the door or hawthorn to chew, so I used what was locally traditional to ward off unwanted otherworldly visitors: salt and garlic. Works just as well in my experience.

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Come sunrise the next day, any remaining pollution was driven out by chunks of frankincense (known locally as kamanyáng) and the household shrine was uncovered. Out ye Keres, it is no longer Anthestêria!

A is for All-Gods

For my first PBP post, I thought I’d introduce the All-Gods. Now, I don’t mean all 8 million of them, just the ones I pay regular respects to. Roll call!

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Agathos Daimôn as protective or nurturing spirit of the house (identified with Lar familiaris)

Aphroditê as Goddess of love and bonds in all forms

Apollôn in all his forms, but especially as Artist’s God, Athlete’s God, Scientist’s God, Healer and God of purification, God of excellence, Protector of children, and Averter of evil

Arês as God of boldness and strength, and Defender of the folk

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Asherah (Athirat) as Mother of the Gods (Mêtêr Theôn), syncretised with Rhea

Asklêpios as God of medicine

Athêna in all her forms, but especially as Goddess of learning and logic, and Protector of cities

Ba’al Hadad and Anat as Protectors of Lebanon (Phoenicia)

Dionysos as the unstoppable force of life in all senses

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Dêmêtêr and Korê-Persephonê as Goddesses of the earth’s fertility

Durga as Great Mother, Protector of gods and mortals, syncretised with Rhea

Gaia (Gê) as Mother of all beings (Mêtêr Pantôn), origin of all

Ganesha (Ganapathi) as Remover of obstacles, God of good fortune, and Opener of the way, syncretised with Hermês

Hekatê as Guardian of roads and gates, and Averter of evil

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Hêra as Queen of the Olympians, Goddess of family, spirit of sovereignty, and Protector of women

Hermês in all his forms and syncretisms including Hermanubis, Hermekate, Hermes-Janus, Hermes-Thoth, Hermes-Ganesh, San Pedro, Santo Niño de Atocha, etc.

Hestia as the imperishable flame, Goddess of hearth and home and sacrificial fire

Ingui as God of fertility and well-being

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Jesus Christ (Iesous Christos) as spirit of radical love and compassion, spirit of hope undying

Mary the Virgin Mother (Christotokos or Theotokos) and all her incarnations, but especially as Lady of the Pillar and Virgin of Guadalupe, Protectors of my hometown and the Philippines, respectively

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Mary Magdalene (Maria ê Magdalênê) as my barangay‘s Patron and Herald of the monsoon season (this is a very local aspect of her, which has little to do with the biblical Magdalene)

Michael the Archangel (Taxiarchos Michaêl) as Slayer of devils

Persephonê-Korê and Plouto as Hosts of the blessed Dead

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Poseidôn as God of waters (in all senses)

Rhea as Great Mother (Mêtêr Megalê), Nurse of gods and mortals

The Mighty Dead (Hêrôes), but especially Hypatia of Alexandria, Julian the Philosopher, Myungsung of Chosun, Boudicca of the Iceni, etc.

Zeus as King of Olympos, God of gods and Protector of the home

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Hopefully, I didn’t miss Anybody.