And in a pattern that I’m no longer even questioning, an insight about Herakles was accompanied by an insight about Kronos.
One of the reasons why I offer mead in libation to Dionysos from time to time is because of the extensive discussion of honey in Carl Kerényi’s Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, which is where I first read the myth of Zeus using mead to drug Kronos during his attempt to seize the cosmic throne.
Well, last night I was reading through Porphyry’s On the Cave of the Nymphs which credits this myth to Orpheus:
In Orpheus, likewise, Kronos is ensnared by Zeus through honey. For Kronos, being filled with honey, is intoxicated, his senses are darkened, as if from the effects of wine, and he sleeps; just as Porus, in the banquet of Plato, is filled with nectar; for wine, he says, was not yet known. The goddess Night, too, in Orpheus, advises Zeus to make use of honey as an artifice. For she says to him:—
When stretch’d beneath the lofty oaks you view
Kronos, with honey by the bees produc’d
Sunk in ebriety, fast bind the God.
This therefore, takes place, and Kronos being bound is emasculated in the same manner as Ouranos. Kronos receives the powers of Ouranos and Zeus Kronos. Since, therefore, honey is assumed in purgations, and as an antidote to putrefaction, and is indicative of the pleasure which draws souls downward to generation; it is a symbol well adapted to aquatic Nymphs, on account of the unputrescent nature of the waters over which they preside, their purifying power, and their co-operation with generation. For water co-operates in the work of generation. On this account the bees are said, by the poet, to deposit their honey in bowls and amphorae; the bowls being a symbol of fountains, and therefore a bowl is placed near to Mithra, instead of a fountain; but the amphorae are symbols of the vessels with which we draw water from fountains. And fountains and streams are adapted to aquatic Nymphs, and still more so to the Nymphs that are souls, which the ancient peculiarly called bees, as the efficient causes of sweetness. Hence Sophokles does not speak inappropriately when he says of souls:—
In swarms while wandering,
from the dead a humming sound is heard.
The priestesses who served the Chthonic Goddesses were called by the ancients bees; and Persephone herself was called the honied. The moon, likewise, who presides over generation, was called by them a bee, and also a bull, for bees are ox-begotten. And this application is also given to souls proceeding into generation. The God, likewise, who is occultly connected with generation, is a stealer of oxen. To which may be added, that honey is considered as a symbol of death, and on this account it is usual to offer libations of honey to the terrestrial Gods; but gall is considered as a symbol of life; signifying obscurely by this that death liberates from molestation, but the present life is laborious and bitter.
Which sounds an awful lot like the Orphic verse discussed by the anonymous commentator of the Derveni papyrus where in order to attain mastery of the cosmos Zeus has to swallow the severed:
phallos of the first-born king, onto which all
the immortals grew (or: clung fast), blessed gods and goddesses
and rivers and lovely springs and everything else
that had been born then; and he himself became solitary.
It also makes an interesting parallel with the story related by Arnobius of Sicca which begins with Zeus trying to rape his mother and prematurely jizzing on a rock:
This the rock received, and with many groanings Acdestis is born in the tenth month, being named from his mother rock. In him there had been resistless might, and a fierceness of disposition beyond control, a lust made furious, and derived from both sexes. He violently plundered and laid waste; he scattered destruction wherever the ferocity of his disposition had led him; he regarded not gods nor men, nor did he think anything more powerful than himself; he contemned earth, heaven, and the stars. Now, when it had been often considered in the councils of the gods, by what means it might be possible either to weaken or to curb his audacity, Liber, the rest hanging back, takes upon himself this task. With the strongest wine he drugs a spring much resorted to by Acdestis where he had been wont to assuage the heat and burning thirst roused in him by sport and hunting. Hither runs Acdestis to drink when he felt the need; he gulps down the draught too greedily into his gaping veins. Overcome by what he is quite unaccustomed to, he is in consequence sent fast asleep. Liber is near the snare which he had set; over his foot he throws one end of a halter formed of hairs, woven together very skilfully; with the other end he lays hold of his privy members. When the fumes of the wine passed off, Acdestis starts up furiously, and his foot dragging the noose, by his own strength he robs himself of his sex; with the tearing asunder of these parts there is an immense flow of blood; both are carried off and swallowed up by the earth; from them there suddenly springs up, covered with fruit, a pomegranate tree. (Against the Heathen 5.5-6)
But even more interesting is the linking of Kronos’ castration with meilia considering that the Meliai were generated from the castration of Ouronos and that Melinoë was produced during the rending of Persephone. Likewise Nymphs and water play an important role in the cult of Persephone at Lokroi. And Vergil’s account of Orpheus is part of a story involving bees sprung from the carcass of an ox.
Speaking of Persephone, Porphyry elaborates on the Orphic myth of her weaving in De Antro – note what plant shoots up from Acdestis’ blood? The same one that sprang up when the Corybantes castrated Dionysos and brought his phallos to Italy, which became famed for its honey. (This adds interesting light on the honey and phalloi themes of the Roman Liberalia.)
Also, did you note that Dionysos uses a noose-shaped web to overcome the monster? I did.
As they said on Crete:
πασι θεοίς μελι
λαβυρινθοιο ποτνιαι μελι