A Return
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It has been a long time since I updated this blog. I had nothing to say, but I have been thinking...

Something I seldom talk about is how much living in Hellas has taught me.

As some of you may know I was a big city girl who decided to leave the rat race and move to the island of Lesvos (to the very house my husband was born in) to raise my son in a low crime environment where the beach was his playground and he was free to walk in the street with no fear of being mugged or molested.

I wanted us to live as close to nature (and more specifically Hellenic physis) as we could without moving to a farm (which none of us knew anything about running). And thanks be to the Gods, this came to pass. So did the current economic crisis that is causing many people to consider leaving Hellas - but we will not be leaving, regardless of how difficult it gets. Why? Because all the reasons that brought me here are still relevant and unaffected by the crisis. Plus it has given me countless reasons to love the country more than I ever did before.

I love that there is no way not to be affected by nature here. When its hot, its damn hot. When its cold, its freezing. The presence and influence of Sun, Winds, Mountain, Sea, Earth, Fresh Ground Water, Rock, Tree, etc is palpable. Exposure to their extremities makes one extremely grateful for their opposites. Never before have I given such thanks for cold water when it is so hot or for hot water when its cold.


I also love the way we eat. Cities are full of unseasonal fresh produce but thankfully small towns tend to be suspicious of things that were grown by strangers. The economic crisis has highlighted all the reasons why it is a glorious blessing to eat seasonal produce, sold so fresh that the red earth is still encrusted on it. It has stressed the importance of buying from the tiny green grocers who, in turn, buy from small local farmers. Not only is it tastier and healthier but it is also cheaper, environmentally friendly and supports the local economy.

As I said above, I have been thinking recently...thinking that the economic crisis may be our Silenos, our teacher and initiator into a better world. Not the capitalistic consumer culture of global imports with its carbon trail that the EU is trying to force on us but rather a natural world where we eat what is grown locally and live without that which we do not produce. Yes, it means that we will not have as many choices. We cannot just eat whatever we feel like. We have to eat according to what is available.
And here is the part I love best.
Hellenic traditional food has a recipe for every local edible plant of every season that, eaten at its correct time, yields an annual kaleidoscope of culinary delights that mirror the majesty of every phase of nature throughout the year.

A return to eating directly from the local soil is a return to tradition and the roots of a civilisation; the return to Demetra and the return to life after sojourning in the dead airless world of consumer culture with its psychological angst.

So yes, let us fight for justice but let us also joyfully learn the lessons that this crisis has and will still teach us.

It has shown us friend from foe. It has exposed the lie that is modern democracy. It has amplified the importance of humaneness and honesty. It has illustrated our collective responsibility for the survival of local economies. It has reinforced everything we ever feared about living on bank credit. It has strengthened the bonds of family and our bond with the land. It has inspired gratitude for the Oikos (household) and our ability to maintain it. Never before have the household rites held such vital significance. Never before have we had so many reasons to give thanks and to appreciate everything we do have, regardless of how great or humble that may be. 

The economic crisis may be a death to the life that once was but it is simultaneously the rebirth to a new and better life if we learn its lessons well.

The Formation of a Private Study Group
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The subject of Hellenic PAIDEIA (education) has been coming up on certain venues for a while and it has sparked an interest in the formation of a private on-line strictly adult study group later on in the year (+/- September). This study group will be neutral and have no affiliations with any organisation as a collective although individual members may obviously have whatever affiliations or associations they wish to.
To my knowledge such study groups are available at present but only to those who speak the Hellenic language and what is being proposed here differs slightly because although the subjects studied will be purely Hellenic concepts and subjects...it will be in English.

PAIDEIA is very different to the concept of teaching or being taught. It is about the inherent freedom and the right of everyone to reason things out for themselves.

A definition of PAIDEIA is as follows (from the Lexicon):
The ideal of PAIDEIA is seen as enabling people to be able to give to others the right to reason as well as the right to understand what others are saying. According to Plato, the purpose of PAIDEIA is the ARÊTE of anything that is in existence (both abstract and material) with the purpose of producing a complete and perfect citizen through knowledge of their craft and of ruling and being ruled according to the demands of DIKEO (a just act).PAIDEIA is the cultivation of a noble PSYCHE (Soul) and falls under the auspices of the God Apollon and is his divine gift to mankind.

For these reasons, the proposed study group will have no leaders or teachers and everyone will be on an equal footing as fellow students. Starting with the basic core foundation concepts of the Hellenic worldview, each member of the group will present their unique perspective on a chosen subject (with time for preparation) for the benefit of not only honing one's reason but also for sharing perspectives with others who also wish to learn and think for themselves. 

The point here is not academic rambling (although some of us will :lol: )...the point is for each participating person to integrate the knowledge personally and offer a perspective that reflects their own interests and views regardless of whether they choose to look at it through sport, art, music, philosophy, theology, needlecrafts, or any other personal activity/interest.

This invitation is not limited to those who identify themselves as 'reconstructionist' or 'traditionalist'; its aimed at anyone who may truly wish to participate. 
The only conditions of participation are: 
(a) you must be over the age of 18 (sorry, it's for legal reasons. Adult content will not be censored)
(b) you must be prepared to contribute, 
(c) you must agree to act with respect and goodwill towards others even in times of disagreement.

The first primary source text under discussion will be the Delphic Maxims which is the traditional starting point of Hellenic PAIDEIA. A new translation of the directives will be available to all participants.

If you would be interested in more information or to join with others to study and learn more individually and as a group in a structured, private, on-line, tolerant environment, free of charge; please contact me via email or on this thread.

Χρόνια Πολλά!
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Happy New Year to everyone who observes the Athenian Calendar.

May the 2nd year of the 697th Olympiad be a joy to Gods and mortals alike.

Thank You to the Unknown Voice in the Wilderness
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The Art of Thesia (Sacrifice) - Part One
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There are many different types of Thesia within the ancient Hellenic religion and an understanding of these categories and their usage within the art of sacrifice will illustrate to us not only how to sacrifice but also what to sacrifice and when to sacrifice it. The following section is an easy to use guideline outlining firstly the central ideas concerning sacrifice, secondly the main categories of Thesia and secondly the sub-categories of Thesia that offer us an understanding of when sacrifice is required.

The Ideology of Sacrifice in the Ancient World

The word sacrifice is derived from a Latin compound meaning 'to make holy or sacred' and within its English meaning refers simultaneously to offerings made in religious ceremonies as well as a loss or relinquishing of something valuable or prized. Thus in English, sacrifice is almost always associated with the idea of loss. This leads to the concept that self-sacrifice is an adequate substitute for any other form of sacrifice because of the loss incurred. Hence in a modern mind unaccustomed to the Art of Thesia, sacrifice will always be equal to loss. Hellenic Thesia is different though and although a loss may result from the sacrifice, the purpose of sacrifice is not personal loss or punishment. The ultimate purpose of Thesia is offered by Salustius:

 
SALUSTIUS: ON THE GODS AND THE WORLD

XVI. 
Concerning sacrifices and other worships, that we benefit man by them, but not the Gods.

   I think it well to add some remarks about sacrifices. In the first place, since we have received everything from the Gods, and it is right to pay the giver some tithe of his gifts, we pay such a tithe of possessions in votive offering, of bodies in gifts of (hair and) adornment, and of life in sacrifices [blood sacrifice]. Then secondly, prayers without sacrifices are only words, with sacrifices they are live words; the word gives meaning to the life, while the life animates the word. Thirdly, the happiness of every object is its own perfection; and perfection for each is communion with its own cause. For this reason we pray for communion with the Gods. Since, therefore, the first life is the life of the Gods, but human life is also life of a kind, and human life wishes for communion with divine life, a mean term is needed. For things very far apart cannot have communion without a mean term, and the mean term must be like the things joined; therefore the mean term between life and life must be life. That is why men sacrifice animals; only the rich do so now, but in old days everybody did, and then not indiscriminately, but giving the suitable offerings to each god together with a great deal of other worship. 

From Salustius, we may understand that the ideology underlying Thesia was very specific and governed by what we now call the Law of Reciprocity. The Law of Reciprocity is specific in that it declares that a sacrifice is only Thesia if it is an action appropriate to a particular relationship with the Gods. Thus a good deed or act of self-sacrifice is only an appropriate Thesia when the specific action is appropriate for a specific God at a specified time. Hellenic Thesia does not include Christian notions of self-sacrifice in the form of either literal or figurative 'hair-shirts' or 'self-flagellation' as appropriate Thesia to the Gods unless specified otherwise. It should be noted that the Roman cult of Cybele, commonly associated with the Hellenic worship of Rhea, did call for self-mutilation during the time of Augustus although there is no mention of such castrations, as far as we can find, in the original Asia Minor/Phrygian cult of Cybele or the neighbouring Thracian cult of Ipta (Rhea) that was comprised mostly of women. The castrated phallus in ancient Greece was a Symvolon and not a Synthema calling for men to castrate themselves.

Thus in a capacity of serving one's country in a war, it was considered virtuous and altruistic to offer one's life for the good of one's homeland. In fact, any act of sacrificing one's life for patriotic, familial or religious principles so that others may live was highly praised as an ideally virtuous state of existence. But it did not fall under the ancient category of Thesia. Thesia refers specifically to 'offerings' to the Gods in whatever form is appropriate to the God being worshipped or petitioned. The purpose of Thesia was to create, repair and maintain a relationship with the Gods.

Thesia has five main categories that denote different types of dedicatory offerings. It should be noted at the outset that only the highest quality sacrifices (as appropriate to the means of the worshipper) were offered to the Gods. The ancient idea was that if one called to or upon the Gods, they should be treated like honoured guests and offered the best of what one had.

 

  • Blood Thesia
  • Bloodless Thesia
  • Spondai
  • Valuables
  • Agones

 

Blood Thesia

 

Although blood sacrifice is very rare in Hellenismos, its practice is not forbidden provided the customs and rituals of sacrifice are completely obeyed. Blood Sacrifice falls under three central sub-categories: Olympian, Khthonic and Symbolic Blood Sacrifice.

a. Blood Thesia to Olympian Gods

Blood Sacrifices to Olympian Gods are called Communion Thesia and are specific to only the Olympian Gods where an animal is sacrificed, specified inedible portions are offered to the Gods and the flesh of the sacrificed animal is consumed in a celebratory dinner to commune with the Gods. Hecatombs of one hundred animals were offered at major festivals with thousands of attending worshippers.


Customs and Laws of Blood Sacrifice for an Olympian Deity in Communion Thesia:

*     Usually white animals were carefully chosen and selected.

*     A sacrificial animal was not allowed to be a domestic pet or an animal that served you by providing transport, dairy products, assistance in ploughing or provided companionship

*     The soul of the sacrificed animal is guaranteed immortality

*     Sacrifice to Olympians takes place at dawn

*     The sacrifice begins with the presiding Priest addressing the prayer and petition to the God/Goddess. As the altar is usually in the 'Temenos' (courtyard/garden) of a temple, the Priest says the prayer from the altar facing the Naos (inner sanctum of the Temple where the cult statue is enshrined).

*     Those congregated for the Thesia throw Barley or perform other purificatory rites over the sacrificial animal and the altar. The animal is adorned with garlands and flowers. The animal is thus blessed and purified as is the altar. Those responsible for blessing and purifying the animal are not permitted to be responsible for performing the actual sacrifice.

*     The sacrificial animal must walk willingly to the altar as if it is forced or dragged the sacrifice is not acceptable to the Gods. To sacrifice an unwilling victim is considered a bad omen.

*     The presiding Priest produces the sacred knife and turns the animal's head skywards in honour of the Olympians and slits its throat.

*     At the moment of sacrifice, an announcer will call the congregated worshippers to order and pray for peace in the minds of those present.

*     The entrails and liver were inspected by the Diviner (Mantic Priest) to see whether the Gods had accepted the sacrifice. Divination could not be performed by the Priest/Priestess who had sacrificed or carved the animal

*     If the offering was accepted, the blood from the animal is sprinkled upon the altar by the presiding Priest. An altar to any Olympian God is called a Vomos and is a high altar raised upon the ground.

*     The assisting Priest now takes over and separates the Thesia or Gods' portion (the long bones, fat and entrails) of the sacrifice and carves the carcass.

*     The carcass is given to the Cook-Priests or Priestesses who will cook the flesh.

*     The Thesia is burnt upon the altar while those congregated feast upon their own portions. The Thesia is roasted until its 'incense' rises into the air. Thus could the Olympians partake of the feast and commune with their worshippers

*     The rest of the meat is eaten by the gathered worshippers with a special portion (the thigh) allocated to the presiding Priest who had sacrificed the animal.

*     All meat had to be eaten at the festival and by a certain hour. People were not allowed to take the meat home with them. This prevented sacrificing more than was appropriate.

b. Blood Thesia to the Khthonioi (Gods of the Underworld, certain Heroes and the Ancestors)

Blood sacrifice to the Khthonioi differed in the follow manners from Communion Thesia:


*     Animals were usually black in colour

*     Thesia took place at sunset or during the night

*     The head of the animal was turned to face the ground in honour of the Khthonioi so that the blood could run into the earth.

*     The blood was sprinkled onto specific Khthonic altars. The Eskhara was a low altar that was close to the ground upon which the animal's blood would run. The Vothros was a trench or sacred pit into which the blood flowed.

*     The Thesia is offered to the Khthonioi whole and thus 'sacred'.

*     It is forbidden to eat the meat of a Khthonic Thesia. Thus a blood sacrifice to the Khthonioi is not a 'Communion Thesia'

*     Sacrifices to the Khthonioi date back much further than Olympian Thesia

c. Symbolic Blood Thesia

Symbolic Thesia were specific blood offerings to very specific Gods. This type of Thesia was not acceptable to all Gods and thus only the specified Gods may be sacrificed to in this unique way. They differed from Olympian and Khthonic Thesia in the following manners:


*     The animal intended for sacrifice was a substitute for the God it was being offered to.

*     The animal was selected a specified amount of time before the sacrifice.

*     The animal was cared for and fed by the community until the time for the Thesia.

*     The animal was consumed by the worshippers after the sacrifice and was seen as 'eating' the God. This was the most intimate form of communion.

*     The meat of the Thesia was usually eaten raw.

 


(Continued in Part Two)

The Art of Thesia (Sacrifice) - Part Two
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Bloodless Thesia

Bloodless sacrifices were offerings to the Gods of a portion of what one had received by the grace of the Gods. Bloodless Thesia are burnt for Olympian Gods upon the Vomoi (high altar). For the Khthonioi the Thesia are either burnt completely until they are ashes upon the Eskhara (low altar) or buried in the Vothros (pit).  Bloodless Thesia include:

  • First Fruit Thesia (upon harvest)
  • Spoils of battle
  • Anything received.
  • Votive offerings: Offered by a worshipper when a request has been granted and an offering promised upon petition. A Bloodless Thesia in recognition of divine intervention.
  • Bloodless Thesia (sacrifice of foodstuffs) would include offerings of meat that has not been sacrificed within the ritual. Breads, cakes (flour mixed with either wine or oil) known as the 'innocent victims'.

c. Spondai

Spondai (meaning 'truce/treaty/libation' and pronounced 'spon-thee') refer to liquid Thesia that are offered directly to the Gods or poured upon the Blood and Bloodless Thesia after they are placed in the altar fire or buried in the Khthonic pit. Spondai are also associated with the concept of truces or treaties because in times of battle when a truce is declared, libations (Spondai) are poured by the leaders of both armies to symbolise the peace treaty. Spondai were poured on altar and ground for Olympians while pitchers full of the libation are spilt only upon the ground for certain Khthonioi. Only appropriate Spondai are offered to Celestial Gods such as Sun (Helios), Moon (Selene), Aphrodite of Heavenly Love, etc) as it is not customary to offer the Celestial/Heavenly Gods Blood or Bloodless Thesia or valuables. Spondai are usually the following:

  • Wine
  • Water
  • Milk
  • Honey
  • Olive Oil
The last two sub-categories are fairly simple to understand and practice.

d. Valuables

Valuables of any sort could be offered to either any of the Gods for either ritual use or to be buried or placed in a sacred place in thanks to and honour of the Gods. The item should be purified during the offering.

e. Agones

Agones are a specialised form of Thesia that are more of a dedication than an actual sacrifice. Agon (contest) is an important aspect of ancient Hellenic religious thought and life in general. Hence in any form of contest, someone competing could dedicate their performance or achievement to a God or Goddess. This dedication or offering of personal achievement to the Gods was favoured by poets, musicians, athletes, actors, craftsman, etc. Any special talent that one possessed could be offered as a gift to an appropriate God or Goddess.

The Rites of Thesia

Aside from the main categories that denote what types of Thesia are acceptable, there are separate forms of rituals that indicate when Thesia are required.

  • Ceremonial Sacrifices

Performed on particular dates and dedicated to particular Gods with specified and traditional Thesia

 

  • Communal Sacrifices

 

The Thesia of a community that occurs upon the introduction of a new God or Goddess into a specific region, area or home. Thesia, appropriate to the new God, are offered to indicate their acceptance of the new God.

  • Honorary Sacrifices

Gifts offered to the Gods to pay respect

  • Cathartic Sacrifices

Specific Thesia appropriate to the function and nature of the God or Goddess to who sacrifice is being made to remove Miasma (physical or spiritual pollution). Such Cathartic Thesia were required before entering a temple when Hellenes had been exposed to foreign influences or had returned from a war, etc. Miasma and Catharsis will be dealt with more thoroughly in Module Four.

  • Saviour Sacrifices

To petition or thank the Gods for release from something or for the Divine intervention that saved them from something

  • Marital Sacrifices

The series of Thesia that marked the transition of a single man or women into a married adult

  • Sacrifices for Entry

Thesia that were offered to gain entry into something, e.g. those who wished to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries had to bring a live pig that would be sacrificed as a Thesia to gain entry into the Mystery Cult.

  • Sacrifices for a Journey

Thesia offered to Gods specific to the type of journey to be undertaken.

  • Conclusion Sacrifices

Thesia performed at the end of something

  • Victory Sacrifices

Thesia to both a God specific to the area in which the victory is required or has been achieved. This type of Thesia would either be directly to or include Nike, the Goddess of Victory, to give petition or give thanks for a victory.

  • Thanksgiving Sacrifice

Thesia to a particular God specific to what has been received as well as to the Charites (Graces)

  • Good News Sacrifices

Thesia to give thanks for good news to a God specific to the nature of the news as well as to Hermes, the Divine Messenger

  • Mystery Sacrifices

Thesia specific to particular Mystery Cults


  •  New Altar Dedication Sacrifice
Upon the dedication of a new altar specific to a particular God or Goddess, Thesia are offered to the God to accept the altar as a doorway to the world of mortals. 


Sources

1.    The Ancient Hellenic Divine Practices: Kadence Buchanan
2.    UCL History Newsletter Archive: Simon Hornblower (Strabo/Isokrates/Thucydides)
3.    Sallustius: On the Gods and the Worlds (from the Shrine of the Goddess Athena)
4.    Iamblichus on the Mysteries: Thomas Taylor translation
5.    Festivals and Sacred Rites of the Hellenes - Vlasis G. Rassias
6.    Lysias: Against Nichomachus
7.    Proclus: The Hieratic Art
8.    Altruistic Suicide or Altruistic Martyrdom? by Demetrios Constantelos

 


Through The Gates of Horn or Ivory
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To Dionysos Eleuthereos with my eternal thanks and everlasting devotion, 11 February 2010

I ran,

In recollection, with no idea of where

I realised

Along that path I could not see Him there

I called,

In recollection, to no one that I knew

I looked upon

Unseasonal earth where Dionysos once grew

He came,

In recollection, framed against a sky so blue

He took my hands

And spun me round and the world was born anew


Lord Byron, Philhellene and Inspiration
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I have spent some time thinking of famous Philhellenes (friends of Hellenes) and especially those who lost their lives during the Greek Revolution of 1821 to 1829. And such thoughts always lead me to Lord Byron who is a personal inspiration to me for so very many reasons.
 


(Above) Lord Byron in traditional dress in Athens

During the years Byron spent in Hellas, he completely adopted Hellenic culture and even chose to wear traditional clothes to show his solidarity with Hellenes and the Hellenic fight for Liberation. As a Classicist and Poet, Byron developed such a deep admiration for the ancient culture that the sight of the oppression of the once proud Hellenes at the hand of the Ottoman Empire inspired him to brave the disapproval of his British peers and act in defence of a Great People and their Country. Byron spent his own money to outfit the Hellenic fleet and then died of sepsis contracted during an illness just before he would have sailed with Alexandros Mavrokordatos to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto.

On April 19, it will be 186 years since Lord Byron passed away...

One of the best poems of Byron that describes quite beautifully his love for Hellas is 'The Maid of Athens, ere we part'. It was written in 1810 and years before he would return to fight for a Liberation he would never live to see. Personally I think that his life ended in the place that he truly loved like no other and that he was afforded the ultimate gift of the Gods...to die beneath the Hellenic sky....oh, and what a sky that is :)

Maid of Athens, ere we part,

Lord Byron Athens, 1810

Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh give me back my heart !

Or, since that has left my breast,

Keep it now, and take the rest !
Hear my vow before I go,


 
By those tresses unconfined,

Woo'd by each Ægean wind;
By those lids whose jetty fringe
Kiss thy soft cheeks' blooming tinge;
By those wild eyes like the roe,



By that lip I long to taste;
By that zone-encircled waist;
By all the token-flowers that tell
What words can never speak so well;
By love's alternate joy and woe,



Maid of Athens !    I am gone:
Think of me, sweet !    when alone.
Though I fly to Istambol,
Athens holds my heart and soul:
Can I cease to love thee? No !


On the Meaning of the word Allegory
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The word allegory derives from the ancient Hellenic 'allos' (other) and 'agoreuein' (speaking out). An allegory thus refers to anything (spoken, written, painted, sculpted, acted out, etc) that represents something else. On the most general level, allegories are comprised of:

1.Schema: The word schema means 'pattern' and refers to the individual Symbolic structure of any particular myth (or any other representative item) and how the paradeigma together with the names of the Gods, divine actions etc, are designed to layer the meaning of myths. There may be as little as two layers of meaning and as many as seven or more.

2.Paradeigma:
The word paradeigma means 'a blue-print/example' in ancient Hellenic and thus indicates the formula for myths, the poetic meter or prose, as well as referring to the different ancient figures of speech and how they may be used within conjunction to the names of the Gods to represent different things. An example of some of the different ways that Divine names and actions could be used in a myth are as follows:

a.   Metonomia: Referring to a compound word derived from a particular root word or words. The meaning of the root(s) of the word are combined and contained within the meaning of the compound word, i.e. Y x Z = YZ (With the individual meaning of both Y and Z as well as combined meaning of YZ being pertinent)

b.   Synecdoche: Referring to when a part of a whole (set) is used to describe the whole, i.e. Set 1 = X, Y, Z thus the use of X also refers to the whole of Set 1 (X, Y and Z)

c.   Analogia: Referring to the logical aspectual comparison between one thing and another, i.e. if X = Y in a certain state then X may = Y in other similar states

d.   Hendiadys (a compound form of the Hellenic phrase 'ἓν διὰ δυοῖν' 'one via two'): is a figure of speech used for emphasis — "The substitution of a conjunction for a subordination". The basic idea is to use two nouns linked by a conjunction to express a single complex idea, e.g. X + Y = Z

The ancients used the term 'Hyponoia' to refer to what we now call an allegory. The word Hyponoia indicates a 'veiling function of language' or 'an allusion to'. The word was used by Plutarch, Plato, Aristophanes, Euripides and Xenophon to refer to a hidden meaning under the use of the words in a story while in slightly later times, Philo Judaeus uses the word to describe the theme of a myth and the secret it hides. Generally, the word Hyponoia appears to indicate that the listener must look past the basic semantics of words to uncover a hidden meaning that exists beneath their surface. All of the concepts that were inherent within the word hyponoia are now classified under the word allegory.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti
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After years of loving Rossetti's Pre-Raphaelite paintings, I have finally discovered the sonnet sequence that accompanies some of them.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Bocca Baciata (above)

I found the sonnets profound and highly recommend them to all lovers of Victorian poetry and/or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Full version of The House of Life available at : www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile

Left: Rossetti's Mnemosyne or alternatively titled 'The Lamp of Memory'

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