Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Liturgia Philotetos of Epaphroditus

(Promulgatio de Ordine Philotetos)

"The Liturgy of Love" by Epaphroditus
(Proclamation of the Order of Philotes)

(c) 1994

Children of the future Age,
Reading this indignant page;
Know that in a former time,
Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime.

- William Blake
"A Little GIRL Lost" (Songs of Experience)

Table of Contents

I. Prologue

[1] Ye Muses, hear!
For I, Epaphroditus, Hellene, call!
I beg You! Hear, and grant that I may tell
my story well! Begin when first appeared
the Goddess, when she came and spoke to me,
Philotês*, Aphrodite's daughter. [*fih-LAW-tays]

[2] Wretched in my loneliness I called
the Gods on high to help me, hungering
for human contact after many months
sequestered for my sacred work,
the magnum opus, still unfinished.
Earnestly I asked the Gods why love is rare,
for even when we banish Strife, dispel
the fearful force that separates, yet still
the distance is maintained, and Love does not
rush in to fill the vacuum. Thus throughout
the night I burned the sacred incense, poured
libations, pleaded for an answer...

[3] Becoming drowsy in the deepest night,
I dozed - just a moment. Startled from
my sleep I turned, and saw a woman close
beside me, standing quiet by my side.

"I am Philotes." This was spoken softly,
answering the question still behind
my lips.
"Your name means 'Love'," I mused out loud.

"Thou speakest truth," she said, "Dost thou not know
that I'm a goddess? That affection, love
and friendship all are mine, the gifts I give?"

[4] She didn't look to me to be a goddess.
She was rather short, and had more flesh
than fit her bones. Her breasts were barely seen
beneath the rustling drapery of her robe.
Nor were her clothes divine or rich. She wore
a simple cotton dress of salmon hue.
No jewelry adorned her, but a wreath
of brightly colored flowers ringed her hair,
of tawny hue, which hung around her neck.

[5] "Is this a love goddess?" I thought again.

Philotes laughed, for she had read my mind.
"My beauty's not so great as some expect."

I blushed at having thus offended her -
a goddess! But she smiled and said, "No need
to fear offense, for vanity is not
my vice, although some other gods have felt
its poisonous sting, and suffered from its bite!

[6] "Attend my words, my friend, for I am not
the same as Aphrodite, she who is
the fountainhead of beauty, charm and grace.
Although she is my mother, it was not
my lot to have a form that ravisheth.
Nor am I like my brother Eros.
He inherited my mother's beauty and
her passionate heart. He thinketh hardly long
enough to blink before he throweth darts
with wild abandon. Anyway, I think
that you're acquainted long ago with them!"

[7] I laughed and said, "In truth I know them well.
In other times they've sent me many gifts,
such pleasant gifts - and not so pleasant too!"

She smiled and answered, "Thou wilt find my gifts
are different; rarely have they been regretted.
Never would I say those other's gifts
are bad, but those who know me, also taste
my gifts, my tender fruit, subdued but sweet."

"What gifts are these?" I asked.

Philotes said,
"Attend my words, and thou shalt know them all."

II. Instruction

[8] "Abundant gifts I offer thee,
but know that they come not for free.
To earn them thou must honor me;
the acts reward the devotee.

[9] Attend! Four Sacraments are mine,
the first and second, third and fourth are mine.
For these are holy acts by which thou honorest
me, but in so doing thou wilt win
my warmth and friendship; thou wilt gain my gifts
each time thou celebratest these my rites.
Attend and learn my Sacraments of Love."

The First Sacrament

[10] Philotes led me to the mirror, placing
me in my own view; she stood aside
where she could not be seen and spoke these words:

[11] "The Sacrament of Self is always first.
For know that thou art god and goddess both.

[12] I call for thee to think upon thy form -
Perhaps my mother, Golden Aphrodite
gave to thee a share of her own splendor,
the gift of turning heads, of charming hearts,
igniting passions. Gift or curse is this?
Nought cometh free; each blessing is a curse,
each curse a blessing in disguise, at times.

[13] Whatever portion hath been given thee
of beauty, know that thou art yet a god
and goddess. Look upon thy holy body;
learn to love it. It's a gift of gods
and goddesses to thee. Whatever form
thy gift doth take, yet know it hath been given
thee for thine own pleasure, and for love
of others. Truly, some have been made large
and others small, in whole or in their parts.
And some have coal-dark hair, and others like
the sun, and some have voices sweet to hear,
and others have a forceful tone. The skin
of some is cloaked by copious hair, while some
like infants go, with skin both smooth and bare.
Whatever characters are thine, are sacred.
Enjoy thine own peculiarities,
and strive to take enjoyment in thyself.

[14] Again, I say to love thyself!
If thou wouldst love another, or wouldst have
another be in love with thee, then heed
my words, for thou must learn to love thyself.

[15] Now look upon thy hands, thy arms, thy chest,
thy belly. Feel thy hair, thy fingers, yea,
thy lips, thy breast, thy thighs. Enjoy the feel
of thine own touch.

Now look upon thy limbs and thy soft parts,
and see them as a font of pleasure and
excitement, for I dwell in everyone.
Thou needest only seek for me, and I'll
enflame desire!

[16] Now let thy fingers comb thy hair;
enjoy its tangle, thick and soft!

Now gently, light as feathers, touch thy lips,
and feel my power tingling through thy flesh!

Now lightly stroke thy breast, so soft beneath
thy palm, and feel thy nipples swell with joy!

Now lightly rub the mound of thine own belly,
core of thine existence. Let thy fingers
barely touch the hair between thy legs.

Now listen! Touch (oh barely touch!) thy sex,
for now is not the time for greater pleasures.
Let thy hand just graze thine inner thigh,
and crack the gates of pleasure. - Enough!

[17] All this thou knowest well, if only thou
wouldst care to often love thyself, and lose
thyself in every tiny ecstasy,
for then I am with thee!"

The Second Sacrament

[18] "Attend and hear my second sacrament,
the Sacrament of Sight.

[19] To feast thine eyes upon another's form,
to savor their sweet scent, and listen in
delight, devouring their voice, these too
are sacraments, the pleasures of two people,
giving and receiving. Thus is Love
released within the world.

[20] Whatever form another person hath,
it hath inherent value. Learn to look
and see it. Though in vulgar thought their beauty
and attractiveness might never be
remarked, yet it is there. The more unique
their form, the more it offereth uncommon
interest, food for thine appreciation.
If thou canst not perceive it, then
the loss is thine.

[21] The image of another human being,
in sight or sound, or any other way -
this is a gift from me, but thou must learn
to value it. For then the thought or presence
near of any other person will
become a source of welcome joy to thee.

[22] Thou also art a source of joy to others
in my Order, those who honor me.
Whatever form the gods have given thee
is holy; it's a gift from them, through thee,
to other people wise enough to see.

If thou wouldst hold the Sacrament of Sight
and worship me, thou shouldst accept the praise
another granteth thee, by eye or ear
or any other way. For I am found
in shared appreciation, joy, affection
and desire one showeth to another.

[23] The quick exchange of glances, locking eyes,
the intimate exchange of words, or simply
being near - in little ways like these
I am invoked, and come to stand between
you both, and ye shall feel my warmth, a gift
of me, Philotes, Aphrodite's daughter."

[24] The goddess moved where I could see her, and she said:

"Now look on me, though I have not the gifts
of Aphrodite, fair in face and form.
But look at me, and see how now I look
at thee - and feel the power grow!
Attend and feel me dwelling in thy flesh.
Now feel my glow throughout thy limbs and loins.
Yes, feel the serpent deep within thee, stirring
from his torpor. Feel his primitive warmth
that spreadeth through thy roots, and feel him stretching
long and hard, and feel him burrowing deep
within thy belly! From the snake take strength
and fortitude. Accept the serpent's gift,
and let the power of life and love increase
within thy loins. The Force between us burneth!

[25] If thou wouldst honor me,
then learn to give and also take
the Sacrament of Sight!"

The Third Sacrament

[26] Philotes stepped toward me, drawing close,
and placed her fingers lightly on my cheek.
She said, "Now hear the sacrament that's third,
the Sacrament of Skin.

"Touch in My Name"

[27] It's touch that joineth one soul to another;
learn to touch each other in my name!

[28] The baby cradled, gently held against
its mother's breast, to drink warm milk and dream.
Hear: this is in my name.

[29] The child doth gladly wrap his arms around
another child in close camaraderie.
And this is in my name.

[30] A woman or a man doth hug their child,
each winning comfort from the other's love.
For this is in my name.

[31] Two lovers lightly touch each other's flesh
and kiss; and if in rapture one doth take
the other in their mouth or belly, this,
this too, is in my name.

[32] For it is I who bringeth each one to
another, trading tenderness and care,
to recognize a bond of common kind,
and join in holy unity."

"Be Thou Like a Cat"

[33] Philotes put her milk-white arm around
me, bringing me to where my cats sat close
together, grooming one another. "Look,"
she ordered, and we sat beside them.

[34] "Be thou like a cat -
For cats it is enough to lie with other
cats, enjoying their caresses, kissing,
licking more for pleasure than for cleanliness,
for thus all cats are bound together.

[35] Be thou like a cat -
The cat delighteth rubbing by another.
It will place its head upon a lap
and sleep, and gratefully accept the stroking -
but just so much as pleaseth it!
So, be thou like a cat!"

The Fourth Sacrament

[36] Philotes took me by the hand, and sitting
on the bed, she pulled me down beside
her. Gazing deeply in my eyes she said:

[37] "Of course, I'm happy in the bed where lovers
wrestle; also I'm delighted when
they let their loving partners enter them.
These pleasures too are mine, the sacrament
that's fourth, the Sacrament of Sex.

[38] Now close thine eyes and turn thy mind toward
my hands, and feel their warmth against thy skin.

[39] Behold the sacred serpent dwelling in
the roots within thy trunk. I will awake
the serpent! Feel the serpent waken! Feel
his muscles tighten, and his thickness swell
and harden. Now uncoiling from his place
of rest, he reacheth out, both long and hungry.
Upward climbing, reaching ever higher,
the serpent stretcheth skyward for his goal.
His rigid length he driveth up the sacred
Tree of Life along the trunk, to find
its bushy foliage, dense and thick with vigorous
verdant growth. Now high within the leaves
he climbeth, thrusting deep between the limbs,
and stretcheth through their moisture, darkness which
absorbeth, holdeth Sun's life-giving warmth.

[40] These gifts I share with Aphrodite and
with Eros, for they are my kin, but there's
a difference. Those who tangle limbs in bed
at my request, cement the bonds of people,
even if they never meet again.

[41] The first one groweth closer to the next,
the second to a third, and so the first
and third grow closer, for each loving act
that's taken in my name, it draweth tight
humanity in mutual affection.

[42] Now hear this charge I give my devotees,
my family, the members of mine order:

'Do not forget Philotes name!
Invoke Her through each Sacrament:
of Self, and Sight, and Skin aflame,
and Sex. To each we give assent!'

III. Initiation

[43] "Thou knowest now my gifts for every mortal
and for thee. When separating Strife
hath gone I'm always willing to arrive,
and draw whomever wishes into warm
embraces of each other - but only if
I'm welcome. Those with whom I'm always
welcome, those I call my loyal Family.
They receive my blessings all the time.

[44] These are the gifts I offer thee, the boons
of all who join mine Order. Ask thyself
if this could be thy way; think well if thou
wouldst give thy heart to live this way. If it's
thy choice, thou shalt be welcomed to mine order."

[45] She spoke no more, but turned her back and bowed
her head and waited there. Though overjoyed
by what I'd heard, I kept myself from quick
assent, and pondered the commitments of
her order, which she called her Family...

[46] At last, when I had clearly seen that there
was nothing in her Order contrary
to my convictions, I announced my choice.

[47] "Philotes, Goddess, I've decided.
Priceless are the gifts you offer. Gladly
do I promise to attempt to follow
your advice and lead my life thereby."

[48] Philotes turned and smiled; she said, "Well chosen
my companion. Listen now and hear
the Sign and Seal by which mine Order's joined:

May Love's embrace encircle thee.
I welcome Love; so let it be!

Remember these, the sacred Sign and Seal!

May Love's embrace encircle thee.

This is the Sign by which thou mayest seek
my devotees, for they will know the Seal.

I welcome Love; so let it be!

This is the Seal, and by it thou acceptest
others in the bond of Love; you'll love
each other as is pleasing to you both.

[49] If thou art firm in thy decision still,
repeat mine Order's Sign and Seal with me:

May Love's embrace encircle thee.
I welcome Love; so let it be!

Thou hast the Sign and Seal, and knowest thou
their meaning. Use them well, and use them in
my name."
She looked me in the eye and asked,
"Art thou prepared to be initiated?"

I answered, "Yes, fair Goddess, I'm prepared."

[50] Philotes smiled and loosed the rope around
her robe, which hung unfastened, open down
her right-hand side from arm to floor. The fabric
fluttered as she walked toward me, and
I thrilled to glimpses of celestial beauty.

Then, smiling kindly, calmly she unloosed
the shoulder clasp, and down around her feet
the saffron robe collapsed in rustling waves.
Dumb-struck I stood before her majesty,
uncertain what to do, or what to say.

[51] "The time hath come to make our troth, for which
I ask the Fivefold Kiss: first feet, then knees,
then sacred sex, and then my breast and lips."

[52] I trembled as I followed her instructions.
Gently then she stroked my hair and softly
touched my cheek. Becoming more relaxed
I smiled at her. She answered with a smile
and warmly whispered, "Welcome to my family."

"My Goddess, please accept my thanks,"
I answered, bowing in respect.

She smiled again and, pointing to her robe,
politely asked, "If thou wouldst be so kind..."

I draped the simple robe around her sacred
shoulders, and attached the golden clasp.
I stooped and lifted up the rope that was
her belt, and offered it to her, which she
accepted, wrapped around her waist, and knotted.

IIII. Celebration

[53] Philotes spoke: "The time hath come for thee
to meet some others of mine Order."

With her hand upon my upper arm she turned
me round and I beheld a golden door
with flanking marble columns, glowing white.
As we approached, the golden door swung in.
She brought me through the threshold; there I saw
a dozen other people, women, men,
of every age and color. They stopped -
They hesitated, looking questioningly.

[54] I stood perplexed until a woman came
to me; she looked into my eyes and said:

"May Love's embrace encircle thee."

With sudden comprehension I replied:

"I welcome Love; so let it be!"

She sweetly laughed and gently touched my face.
Uncertain what to do, I stroked her hair;
she stood upon her toes and kissed my cheek.
I looked around and nowhere could I see
"Where's the Goddess gone?" I asked.
The woman laughed and said, "She's everywhere!"

[55] A slender, grey-haired man approached and said,

"May Love's embrace encircle thee."

And I replied with quickly growing trust,

"I welcome Love; so let it be!"

He put his arm around my shoulders, led
me, guiding me toward the others, most
of whom then came and made the sacred Seal.

[56] I saw a shapely woman, standing all
alone, her golden hair cascading to
her hips. Approaching her, I said,

"May Love's embrace encircle thee."
"I welcome Love; so let it be!

she answered with a smile, and so we hugged
in greeting. We admired each other and,
exchanging words, became acquainted well.
And feeling suddenly between my thighs
a motion, I caressed her hair and moved
my lips to hers, but she withdrew from me.
She smiled at my concern, explaining gently,

"The kiss of men is not what I desire;
my lips I'd rather join with my own sex."

I said I understood, apologizing,
but she said there was no need. We spoke
a while some more, and hugged and went our ways.

[57] I felt a touch upon my shoulder and
I turned to see a dark-haired woman, plump
with Nature's bounty. Doubtfully she spoke,

May Love's embrace encircle thee.

Philotes stirred my heart and I replied,

I welcome Love; so let it be!

We smiled and hugged and I discovered I
enjoyed her soft embrace. Surprising one
another at our friendship, long we talked,
and touched, and sometimes kissed. And once when we
embraced, I felt my manhood quickly swell
and stiffen, reaching out to touch her. When
she felt it too, she happily laughed and touched
it softly, sending shudders through my limbs,
and I replied in kind. We traded joy
and pleasure for awhile and went our ways.

[58] A man my age approached and made the Sign;
I made the Seal in answer and embraced
in greeting. Talking to each other I
soon noticed that his touches had become
too intimate for me. I told him so
politely; he apologized for his
mistake, and we continued talking for
a while, and parted with another hug.

[59] I turned and saw a woman watching me;
our eyes were locked, and neither she nor I
allowed our gaze to shift before I reached her.

"May Love's embrace encircle thee."
"I welcome Love; so let it be!"

[60] Though some might call her features plain, she glowed
with sensuality. She was the first
to unlock eyes, but only to devour
by sight my body's every part, and thereby
I felt free to do the same, and thrill
my mind with everything I saw of her.
We spoke in whispers, drawing closer, so
we felt each other's breath, and brought our lips
within a hair's breadth. Tentatively hand
touched hand, but soon we pressed our bodies tight
together, savoring every strong limb
and every softness. Though we'd never met
before and no doubt never would again,
we wrestled all the more for that, enjoying
every pleasure like it was the last.

V. Epilogue

[61] A spry old woman, laughing, silver haired,
and holding hands with some much younger man,
addressed the crowd and said:

[62] "Arise ye followers of Philotes!
Join me in this holy hymn,
so we may praise our goddess.
Come, for we're Philotes' Family!"

[63] We sang a song that praised Philotes, fair
Affection, written by Empedocles,
a Sage, now gone for many hundred years.
The hymn we sang is this:

Empedocles' Hymn

[64] "Philotes, Thou whose arms surround the world,
embracing all together, joined as one,
we contemplate Thee, who cannot be seen,
and feel Thee dwelling in our mortal limbs.
We call Thee Friend, for Harmony's Thy gift,
and Joy Thou'rt named, and Aphrodite too.
When people gather, You arrive unseen;
in lofty clouds You circle like a dove,
and draw us close in bonds of common Love.
Hail, fair Goddess!* [*cf. frag. 17]

[65] "In Love all come together,
desiring one another."* [*cf. frag. 21]

[66] We sang, and nestled in another's arms,
I fell asleep, a dreamless bliss.

[67] Much later I awoke; how long I'd been
asleep I cannot tell, but everything
was gone, and I was back within my house.

[68] It's true, I woke! But this was not a dream,
for what Philotes said is surely true,
and since that time our numbers steadily grow,
and we cement our bond with Sign and Seal,
and build our Family as the goddess said.

May Love's embrace encircle thee!