How Nazi is the Schwarze Sonne?

In debates on the Sonnenrad the favorite rhetorical ploy of the detractors (after gaslighting and outright lying) is to move the goal posts.

First they start off by claiming the Black Sun is a Nazi symbol. When you point out that this is a very ancient symbol with roots in Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia as well as Celtic and Germanic lands and further it has a long history in alchemy, Christian and Sufi mysticism, psychiatry, the Romantic and Symbolist art movements, and pop culture generally from the 1980s on – they shift position and say the Black Sun itself is fine, it’s just the particular form of it found at Wewelsburg castle that’s problematic, and then proceed to regurgitate bizarre conspiracy theories about Nazi occultism they learned from a Facebook meme some dude who watched Ancient Aliens or some other “History Chanel” documentary concocted.

Truth, as is so often the case with this ilk, is not on their side.

Consider the following:

ADL Hate on Display™ Hate Symbols Database / Sonnenrad
The sonnenrad or sunwheel is one of a number of ancient European symbols appropriated by the Nazis in their attempt to invent an idealized “Aryan/Norse” heritage. The sonnenrad appears in the traditional symbology of many countries and cultures, including Old Norse and Celtic cultures. […] Because sonnenrad imagery is used by many cultures around the world, one should not assume that most sonnenrad-like images necessarily denote racism or white supremacy; rather, they should be analyzed carefully in the context in which they appear.

Eva Kingsepp, Foreword to The Liber Nigri Solis
The swastika as a graphic symbol of the Sun (or Pole star) is of course interesting as compared to the Black Sun. Throughout history the latter has been depicted (especially in alchemy) most often as a blackened sun, sometimes carrying the corona of solar eclipses. Today this glyph is increasingly challenged by another: the sun wheel with twelve crooked rays, or Sig-runes, of the Wewelsburg Castle in Westphalia, Germany. The castle was the spiritual center of Heinrich Himmler’s SS during the Third Reich, and this striking floor mosaic in the North tower is nowadays supposed to carry esoteric meanings connected to the presumed occult teachings of the SS. In Germany it is used among right-wing groups as a visual substitute for the forbidden Hakenkreuz (the Nazi swastika). But the Schwarze Sonne of the Wewelsburg is today becoming increasingly popularized in mainstream popular culture, especially spawning from the US.

We find it almost every time when ‘Nazi occultism’ is a topic : in speculative popular history, sensationalistic cryptohistory, conspiracy theories, web chat rooms, movies, computer games … I will not go further into this, as the field is truly vast and in most cases historically thoroughly inaccurate. Suffice to say that this particular Black Sun, despite all the writings and all the more or less credible ‘documentary’ films on the History Channel, was not an esoteric symbol used by the Nazis. It was not even known as a ‘Black Sun,’ until post-war popular culture turned it into one.

However, this is certainly not without importance for those who today wish to use the Black Sun in a spiritual context. The popular associations with Nazism significantly add to the Otherness of it, underlining its previous cultural connotations to death, destruction and Evil. This also adds to the dimensions of taboo, ‘holy fear,’ already prevalent in much cultural imagery of the Black Sun. The result is that there is an immense amount of social energy invested in the symbol: if one chooses to use it for spiritual purposes, the whole legacy of cultural meanings associated with it is there as well and must be dealt with. In this respect it is quite fascinating to consider the use of the Black Sun in alchemy and in Jung’s psychoanalytical philosophy as a symbol for nigredo. As already indicated, Jung describes this stage in the process of development as “difficult and strewn with obstacles; the alchemical opus is dangerous. Right at the beginning you meet the ‘dragon,’ the chthonic spirit, the ‘devil’ or, as the alchemists called it, the ‘blackness,’ the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering.” Already in this short quote from Jung there are obviously several interesting concepts. The fact that the repulsive Other is something that most people do not wish to encounter or deal with, but in fact need to if they are to develop as individuals, is very important.

Julian Strube, Nazism and the Occult
The Wewelsburg castle has been identified, within both popular literature and scholarly studies, as the location for a number of occult rituals performed by the SS, or even as the repository of the Holy Grail and the Holy Lance (Hüser 1987; Höhne 1967; Siepe 2009). Indeed, popular narratives about SS ‘rituals’ even found their way into the studies of esteemed experts (Fest 1963, 159-60; cf. Hüser 1987 68). Recent scholarship, however, has shown that no ‘cults’ or ‘rituals’ of any kind have ever been performed at the Wewelsburg (Schulte 2009). Himmler’s plans for turning the castle into a weltanschauliches Zentrum and an organizational base for the SS were never realized. 

There is no historical evidence to suggest that there has been anything like a powerful ‘esoteric circle’ within the SS. It is clear that Himmler consistently had to hide his private esoteric interests from the public and other party elites like Hitler and Goebbels. His future plans for the SS, including the Wewelsburg or the Externsteine, never left the planning stage (Halle 2002; Schulte 2009). Those individuals within the SS who were following an esoteric agenda – notably Wiligut and Rahn – were pushed out of the organization and met tragic ends. Certainly, there is no evidence to indicate that those individuals interested in esotericism in the SS had the power to develop secret weapons or to build subterranean bases and worldwide networks. 

The official stance of the state towards esoteric individuals and organizations became increasingly hostile after 1933. While there is evidence of continuities between esoterically inclined currents, such as Ariosophy, and National Socialism, those affinities never resulted in ‘occult’ influences at a state level. Esoteric groups influenced by such movements as Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, Ariosophy, Mazdaznan, or New Thought were classified as ‘sects hostile to the state.’ In the view of state officials, their unwillingness to adapt to the National Socialist Weltanschauung encouraged disunity amongst the Volksgemeinschaft. As Corinna Treitel (2004) suggests in her study of German occultism, two specific transgressions led to the persecution of esoteric groups by the authorities: the first was the denial of rigid racial hierarchies that, for example, became evident in the Theosophical proclamation of a ‘brotherhood of humanity’; the second was the accusation of ‘superstition’ that would poison the minds of the German people. Hence, in July 1937, all Freemasonic lodges, Theosophical circles, and related groups were dissolved and okkultistische as well as spiritistische publications and activities were forbidden. The famous flight by Rudolph Hess, who, in an attempt to bring an end to the war, had parachuted over Scotland in 1941, led to an increased suspicion of occult influence. It was, for example, claimed that the influence of astrologers and other ‘charlatans’ surrounding Hess had led to his ‘insanity.’ Hitler and, especially, Goebbels had always protested against ‘superstition’ and ‘mysticism,’ which now had to be finally eradicated. The resulting crackdown in June 1941 led to a brutal suppression of esoteric activity in Germany, to the interning of occultists and the forcing of many underground. Ironically, this purging of the occult and the sectarian took place under the aegis of the police chief, Himmler, who, while privately expressing an interest in esotericism, officially supported the crackdown on superstition, which he perceived to be a threat to the unity of the German people (cf.Dierker, Staudenmaier, and Meyer in Puschner 2012).

So basically while this particular graphical representation of the Schwarze Sonne was found in a castle renovated by a Nazi it had almost no currency outside the Schutzstaffel (and very little within it) and Himmler’s esoteric interests brought him into conflict with the rest of the leadership of the Third Reich, which violently rejected such beliefs and persecuted those who held them. 

And for this reason we should soundly reject the Sonnenrad (and all variations thereof) as well as demonize anyone who has the temerity not to. 

Uh huh

How do y’all feel about NASA and the moon landing? 

The CIA?

IBM?

Ford, GM, BMW, and Audi? 

Hugo Boss?

Fanta soft drinks? 

Kodak?

Chase bank?

Cause all of them and many, many others have a much stronger Nazi pedigree than this poor, maligned symbol – and were directly involved in the atrocities of the regime whereas it, being a symbol, was not. At least be consistent – if you’re going to damn me for my usage of the Black Sun you better go after anyone who has ever patronized those companies too.  

But you won’t, because it’s not really about the symbol, now is it? 

After all, you never call me a Commie though I deeply reverence the Hammer of Thor and Saturn’s Sickle. 

Dasvidaniya, tovarisch. 

Bacchic SOAD

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As I’ve mentioned before, I listened to a lot of System Of A Down during my early, formative years with Dionysos, so their music has become imbued with powerful memories of him and all the rituals I performed back then. Listening again makes it all come flooding back, so I put together this playlist of some of the band’s more Bacchic songs.

I’m not angry. When you dance around a fire and you go off in an ecstatic frenzy of spirit and life and then you yell at the Gods so you can make your spirit heard – that’s not anger! (Serj Tankian, Rolling Stone interview)

#cancelthulsadoom

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The other day I was watching Conan the Barbarian and noted with some amusement that Thulsa Doom’s orgiastic snake-cult worships the Black Sun.

Although there are numerous references scattered throughout the film one of the most significant occurs during a scene modeled on Herakles’ encounter with the Skythian Goddess (and progenitrix) Argimpasa.

The Witch:
They said you’d come… From the North, a man of great strength… A conqueror. A man who would some day be king by his own hands. One who would crush the snakes of the earth.

Conan:
Snakes? Did you say snakes?

The Witch:
… What is it you seek?

Conan:
A standard. A symbol. Perhaps on a shield. Two snakes coming together… Facing each other! But they’re one.

The Witch:
With… With a sun and a moon below. Black Sun. Black Moon.

Conan:
Yes…

The Witch:
… There is a price, barbarian!

So, does that make Conan part of Starry Bear lore?

Talk about coming full circle; though other authors have had a greater stylistic influence, it was Robert E. Howard who actually made me want to become a writer. (Along with Karl Edward Wagner, who published a number of Howard pastiches and even penned the script for a third Conan movie before the project was aborted by cowardly, money-grubbing studio heads which indirectly led to Wagner’s descent into madness, perversion, poverty, alcoholism and premature death.)

Fun story! For my 18th birthday I went on a pilgrimage to visit Robert E. Howard’s old stomping grounds; unfortunately I got the name wrong when booking and ended up almost the entirety of Texas away from my intended destination. The little border-town was full of squalor and decay, baroque and often broken statues of Mary and weeping Angels, vacant-eyed people waiting on their stoops for death to claim them and a three-legged dog so thin you could count his ribs which followed close behind me for about five or six blocks. The air was hot as a furnace blast and so humid it felt like I was sucking rancid soup into my lungs. I had a long, meandering walk from the Greyhound station to my hotel, and got turned about and outright lost multiple times. I was back on the bus at the crack of dawn, eager to return home though it had taken me three uncomfortable and largely sleepless days to get there, for it felt as if I had just escaped Hell on Earth. 

Speaking of which, I wonder how long until the “woke” Twitteratti try to #cancelthulsadoom. Fucking Nazis are everywhere, man. 

the political is spiritual

Apropos of my last post … [Edited to add: woops, I meant to link this post, though I suppose the other works too.]

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How does destroying statues of elk and mermaids get justice for George Floyd, Elijah McClain or Breonna Taylor, let alone all of the poor White, Latino, Indigenous, Queer, et alia lives that have been devastated by police brutality, a corrupt legal system and the prison industrial complex? You want reforms, how about we get rid of for-profit penitentiaries and mandatory minimum sentencing, decrminalize drugs and prostitution, put funds into education and rehabilitation programs and insist on deescalation training and community outreach for the police? Just as a start; I also think there need to be moral and social reforms among the civilian population too, though no one ever wants to talk about that part of the equation.

Of course this assumes that justice and reformation are the true goals of these movements and increasingly I’m becoming convinced that the Antifa/BLM leadership are White supremacists who realized they could get their agenda actualized more effectively merely by presenting themselves as “woke” White Saviors – they’ve got the ochlos advocating for segregation and other identitarian policies, spouting racist rhetoric and antisemitic conspiracy theories, tearing down abolitionist monuments, destroying Black- and other minority-owned businesses, ousting centrist and liberal politicians while making the rest grovel and humiliate themselves, and so forth.

Not only is this expedient but it’s pushing a lot of the population right and radicalizing/providing justification for the lunatic fringe. And if they’re successful in not just defunding but dismantling the police (which, at least in major urban centers is composed largely of Black and Brown people, thus harming the very populations they feign to be advocating for) will make it that much easier when it comes time to boogaloo – assuming they even have to. They seem to be transforming America into a racially and socioecominically stratified society just fine without RAHOWA.

Always, we must ask ad cuius bonum.

And no, it’s not the Jews, you deranged lefty.

Nor is it really the crypto-fascists and race-baiters, who are at best pawns. 

It’s not even the technocrats, media hacks, celebutards and billionaires, who are just a step above.

It’s something far more sinister and nihilistic pulling the strings, as the assassination of Elijah McClain makes clear.

Eijah mcclain

From The Colorado Sentinel:

By his teenage years, he’d taught himself to play guitar and violin. On his lunch breaks, McClain would hoof his instruments to animal shelters to perform for abandoned creatures, believing the music put them at ease.

He’d become a vegetarian, considering carnivorous diets a form of cannibalism and eschewing meat for “food from the fields and the trees,” as Sheneen said. She said he cared about animals so much that he would chase off flies rather than kill them.

[…]

“He had a child-like spirit,” she said. “Elijah McClain was not conditioned to the norms of America… He lived in his own little world. He was never into, like, fitting in. He just was who he was.”

Which is evident in the final words Elijah spoke:

Screenshot_20200630-171508_Instagram

What could this Orpheus redivivus have accomplished had his divine breath not been snuffed out by the jackboot of a tyrannical stooge?

orpheus

No, this was no accident.

Something Elijah’s mother clearly knew:

Screenshot_20200630-171608_Instagram

So did Saint Paul, who once wrote:

For we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Don’t let yourselves be deceived. We must be united as the auryn in our fight against this world’s true enemies, the force of uncreation and those who are allied with it. 

Auryn

Not statues of elk and mermaids.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Over the weekend these lefty neckbeards and a bunch of their degenerate buddies dog-piled Galina and one of the members of our ritual group on Twitter, harassing them for hours. Probably the grossest part was when they mocked our friend for losing family members in the holocaust, or when they accused her of cultural appropriation for practicing her ancestral Ukrainian traditions, or outright called her a Nazi because of my own use of the Sonnenrad (note neither she nor Galina wear this symbol or any variation thereof) or when they started accusing the two of them of being the same person. I don’t know, it’s hard to say what’s worse, but that gives you a sense of their debating style, such as it is. 

Which is also evident in this video where two of them spend around 1:40 hyperanalyzing a piece I wrote on my political beliefs. This video would probably have only been about 20 mins long if they had bothered to scroll down and read the comments section of my post where most of their objections were already addressed, and possibly less if they had engaged in any kind of charitable interpretation of the text, something their own commenters pointed out numerous times both during the stream and in the comments at Youtube. 

Or, you know, bothered to ask me.

When they tried to get our friend to answer for what was in the post she reasonably pointed out that it wasn’t her work and they should contact me, the actual author, for clarification, even suggesting having me on their show to do so. Despite giving out my e-mail address it’s been over 48 hours and I’ve yet to hear a peep from the little cowards. Nor do I expect to any time soon.

They won’t debate you unless they’ve got a crowd backing them up and you’re a woman or other “vulnerable” minority they think they can intimidate into silence through slurs and personal attacks. Think being the operative word: Galina and our friend refused to be cowed or back down no matter what steaming pile of shit they flung at them and the two kept arguing back for several hours straight, long after I would have rolled my eyes and disengaged from the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers.

But I wasn’t even given that chance. Pose any serious threat to them and they’ll just tuck tail and run. They will never have me on their show because they know I’ll mop the floor with them in front of their own double digit audience. (I’m referring to IQ not viewership.)

Remember this the next time they or their ilk come for you. Take a stand and don’t ever, ever back down or give in to their petulant demands.  

you do you boo

A couple years ago I had a bunch of #bacchiclivesmatter buttons printed as part of a fundraiser to help out a community member in need, and my wife has been selling the remainder through her Etsy shop.

Until tonight, when I asked her to delete the listing. 

Originally I had wanted to draw a parallel between the systemic oppression suffered by the Bacchic Martyrs and what’s happening in our streets today with our increasingly militarized police force, and also to show solidarity with what I perceived to be a well-intentioned liberation movement. As BLM’s ideology and methodology became clearer I regretted making that comparison, but kept the listing up anyway. 

Partly that was to honor and educate folks about the Bacchic Martyrs and partly it was a great big middle finger to all the butt-hurt lefties who whined at, harassed, threatened and otherwise attempted to intimidate my wife into taking them down. Perhaps if they had been reasonable and respectful we might have considered it. But when their demands were not immediately met they’d proceed to spazz out and a couple incidents got so bad I had to step in and give them what for. (And how fucked is it that they had no problem behaving that way towards a woman, but when confronted by a man they all tucked tail and ran? Neopaganism has some serious misogyny issues it needs to address before it presumes to offer moral chastisement to others, and that applies especially to the Tumblr trash contingent.) 

Well, anyway, I find BLM’s behavior over the past couple weeks so contemptible that I want no association with them, and thus will no longer use that hashtag or sell the buttons. I may give the couple we have left away during some future contest, but I’d feel dirty accepting money for them now. 

Oh, and Shaun King? You should definitely go into a church in a working class Italian neighborhood and start desecrating/destroying all their statues and paintings of the Madonna. Yeah, that’s a really good idea there, buddy. So good that all your followers should try it. In fact y’all should branch out to Irish, Latino, Greek and Russian parishes too!

I’m kidding, of course. That’s a seriously bad idea. Even leaving aside how this will be received by the church members in those places (hint: not well) do these look like divinities you want to fuck with?

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I’ve read The Bakchai. I know what happens when you insult a God’s mommy. And I’ve read Veiled Threats and Madonnas That Maim too. Italian Folk Catholic Mary is terrifying. Trust me, you’d much rather have JC pissed at you.

But you do you boo.

I’m gonna have so much fun watching this play out. 

Alright, back to my hiatus.

Hail Erigone! May you never thirst!

Man and woman hands

Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.127-130
And there was Bacchus, when he was disguised as a large cluster of fictitious grapes; deluding by that wile the beautiful Erigone;–and Saturnus, as a steed, begetter of the dual-natured Chiron. And then Arachne, to complete her work, wove all around the web a patterned edge of interlacing flowers and ivy leaves. Pallas could not find a fleck or flaw–even Envy can not censure perfect art–enraged because Arachne had such skill she ripped the web, and ruined all the scenes that showed those wicked actions of the gods

Hail Amata! May you never thirst!

maenad6a

Vergil, Aeneid 7.341-405
Straightway Alecto, through whose body flows
the Gorgon poison, took her viewless way
to Latium and the lofty walls and towers
of the Laurentian King. Crouching she sate
in silence on the threshold of the bower
where Queen Amata in her fevered soul
pondered, with all a woman’s wrath and fear,
upon the Trojans and the marriage-suit
of Turnus. From her Stygian hair the fiend
a single serpent flung, which stole its way
to the Queen’s very heart, that, frenzy-driven,
she might on her whole house confusion pour.
Betwixt her smooth breast and her robe it wound
unfelt, unseen, and in her wrathful mind
instilled its viper soul. Like golden chain
around her neck it twined, or stretched along
the fillets on her brow, or with her hair
enwrithing coiled; then on from limb to limb
slipped tortuous. Yet though the venom strong
thrilled with its first infection every vein,
and touched her bones with fire, she knew it not,
nor yielded all her soul, but made her plea
in gentle accents such as mothers use;
and many a tear she shed, about her child,
her darling, destined for a Phrygian’s bride:
“O father! can we give Lavinia’s hand
to Trojan fugitives? why wilt thou show
no mercy on thy daughter, nor thyself;
nor unto me, whom at the first fair wind
that wretch will leave deserted, bearing far
upon his pirate ship my stolen child?
Was it not thus that Phrygian shepherd came
to Lacedaemon, ravishing away
Helen, the child of Leda, whom he bore
to those false Trojan lands? Hast thou forgot
thy plighted word? Where now thy boasted love
of kith and kin, and many a troth-plight given
unto our kinsman Turnus? If we need
an alien son, and Father Faunus’ words
irrevocably o’er thy spirit brood,
I tell thee every land not linked with ours
under one sceptre, but distinct and free,
is alien; and ‘t is thus the Gods intend.
Indeed, if Turnus’ ancient race be told,
it sprang of Inachus, Acrisius,
and out of mid-Mycenae.”
But she sees
her lord Latinus resolute, her words
an effort vain; and through her body spreads
the Fury’s deeply venomed viper-sting.
Then, woe-begone, by dark dreams goaded on,
she wanders aimless, fevered and unstrung
along the public ways; as oft one sees
beneath the twisted whips a leaping top
sped in long spirals through a palace-close
by lads at play: obedient to the thong,
it weaves wide circles in the gaping view
of its small masters, who admiring see
the whirling boxwood made a living thing
under their lash. So fast and far she roved
from town to town among the clansmen wild.
Then to the wood she ran, feigning to feel
the madness Bacchus loves; for she essays
a fiercer crime, by fiercer frenzy moved.
Now in the leafy dark of mountain vales
she hides her daughter, ravished thus away
from Trojan bridegroom and the wedding-feast.
“Hail, Bacchus! Thou alone,” she shrieked and raved,
“art worthy such a maid. For thee she bears
the thyrsus with soft ivy-clusters crowned,
and trips ecstatic in thy beauteous choir.
For thee alone my daughter shall unbind
the glory of her virgin hair.” Swift runs
the rumor of her deed; and, frenzy-driven,
the wives of Latium to the forests fly,
enkindled with one rage. They leave behind
their desolated hearths, and let rude winds
o’er neck and tresses blow; their voices fill
the welkin with convulsive shriek and wail;
and, with fresh fawn-skins on their bodies bound,
they brandish vine-clad spears. The Queen herself
lifts high a blazing pine tree, while she sings
a wedding-song for Turnus and her child.
With bloodshot glance and anger wild, she cries:
“Ho! all ye Latin wives, if e’er ye knew
kindness for poor Amata, if ye care
for a wronged mother’s woes, O, follow me!
Cast off the matron fillet from your brows,
and revel to our mad, voluptuous song.”
Thus, through the woodland haunt of creatures wild,
Alecto urges on the raging Queen
with Bacchus’ cruel goad.

Hail Iphis! May you never thirst!

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Ovid, Metamorphoses 14.698-14.742
Iphis, born of a humble family, had seen the famed Anaxarete, who was of the race of ancient Teucer. — He had seen her and felt fire inflame his bones. Struggling a long time, he could not subdue his passion by his reason, so he came a suppliant to her doors. And having now confessed his ardent passion to her nurse, besought her by the hopes reposed in her by the loved girl, not to give him a cold heart and at another time, with fair words given to each of many servants he besought their kindest interest with an anxious voice. He often gave them coaxing words engraved on tablets of soft wax; and sometimes he would fasten garlands, wet with dew of tears, upon the door-posts; and he often laid his tender side nightlong on the hard threshold, sadly reproaching the obdurate bolt. Deafer than the deep sea that rises high when the rainy Constellation of the Kids is setting; harder than the iron which the fire of Noricum refines; more hard than rock which in its native state is fixed firm rooted; she despised and laughed at him and, adding to her cruel deeds and pride, she boasted and deprived him of all hope.

Iphis, unable to endure such pain prolonged, spoke these, his final words, before her door: ‘Anaxarete, you have conquered me, and you shall have no more annoyances to bear from me. Be joyful and prepare your triumph, and invoke god Paean, crown yourself with shining laurel. You are now my conqueror, and I resigned will die. Woman of iron, rejoice in victory! At least, you will commend me for one thing, one point in which I must please even you, and cause you to confess my right of praise. Remember that my star crossed love for you died only with the last breath of my life. And now in one short moment I shall be deprived a twofold light; and no report will come to you, no messenger of death. But doubt not, I will come to you so that I can be seen in person, and you may then satiate your cruel eyesight with my lifeless body. If, you gods above! You have some knowledge of our mortal ways remember me, for now my tongue can pray no longer. Let me be renowned in times far distant and give all those hours to Fame which you have taken from my life on earth.’ Then to the doorpost which he often had adorned with floral wreaths he lifted up his swimming eyes and both his pallid arms, and, when he had fastened over the capital a rope that held a dangling noose, he said, — ‘Are these the garlands that delight your heart? You cruel and unnatural woman?’ — Then, thrust in his head, turning even then towards her, and hung a hapless weight with broken neck. The door, struck by the motion of his feet as they were quivering, seemed to utter sounds of groaning, and, when it flew open, showed the sad sight. All the servants cried aloud, and after they had tried in vain to save him, carried him from there to his mother’s house, (to her because his father was then dead).

Hail to the Sirens! May you never thirst!

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Christina Pluhar, La TarantellaAntidotum Tarantulae
The origins of this ritual dance are attributed by some theorists to the cult of Dionysus that was disseminated in southern Italy over the centuries. Mythology has left us two tales of the origin of the tarantella that are still told in Sorrento and Capri Homeric poetry preserved in oral traditions. One of these relates that the Sirens tried to enchant Ulysses with their songs, but failed to do so because he had been warned beforehand and stopped his ears with wax. Thereupon the Sirens called the Graces to their aid, asking to be taught an erotic dance. But the Graces made fun of the Sirens and invented the tarantella, knowing full well that the Sirens had no legs and would not be able to dance it… Since that time the tarantella has been performed by the young maidens of Sorrento, who learned it from the Graces.

Hail Taygetides! May you never thirst!

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Maurus Servius Honoratus, Commentary on the Eclogues of Vergil 8.29
The wife of Dion, king of Laconia, was Iphitea, daughter of Prognaus, who had kindly received Apollo. In return Apollo rewarded her by conferring upon her three daughters (Orphe, Lyco, and Carya) the gift of prophecy on condition, however, that they should not betray the Gods nor search after forbidden things. Afterwards Bacchus also came to the house of Dion; he was not only well received, like Apollo, but won the love of Carya, and therefore soon paid Dion a second visit, under the pretext of consecrating a temple, which the king had erected to him. Orphe and Lyco, however, guarded their sister, and when Bacchus had reminded them, in vain, of the command of Apollo, they were seized with raging madness, and having gone to the heights of Taygetus, they were metamorphosed into rocks. Carya, the beloved of Bacchus, was changed into a walnut tree, and the Lacedaemonians, on being informed of it by Artemis, dedicated a temple to Artemis Caryatis.

Vergil, Georgics 2.487
Taygetus, where Spartan girls hold Bacchic rites!

Hail the daughters of Dionysos! May you never thirst!

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Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.13.7
Nearby is the temple of Dionysos Kolonates (of the Knoll), by which is a precinct of the hero who they say guided Dionysos on the way to Sparta. To this hero sacrifices are offered before they are offered to the God by the daughters of Dionysos and the daughters of Leukippos. For the other eleven ladies who are named daughters of Dionysos there is held a footrace; this custom came to Sparta from Delphoi.

Hail Charilla! May you never thirst!

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Plutarch, Aetia Graeca 12
The Delphians celebrate three festivals one after the other which occur every eight years, the first of which they call Septerion, the second Heroïs, and the third Charilla. The greater part of the Heroïs has a secret import which the Thyiades know; but from the portions of the rites that are performed in public one might conjecture that it represents the evocation of Semele. The story of Charilla which they relate is somewhat as follows: A famine following a drought oppressed the Delphians, and they came to the palace of their king with their wives and children and made supplication. The king gave portions of barley and legumes to the more notable citizens, for there was not enough for all. But when an orphaned girl, who was still but a small child, approached him and importuned him, he struck her with his sandal and cast the sandal in her face. But, although the girl was poverty-stricken and without protectors, she was not ignoble in character; and when she had withdrawn, she took off her girdle and hanged herself. As the famine increased and diseases also were added thereto, the prophetic priestess gave an oracle to the king that he must appease Charilla, the maiden who had slain herself. Accordingly, when they had discovered with some difficulty that this was the name of the child who had been struck, they performed a certain sacrificial rite combined with purification, which even now they continue to perform every eight years. For the king sits in state and gives a portion of barley-meal and legumes to everyone, alien and citizen alike, and a doll-like image of Charilla is brought thither. When, accordingly, all have received a portion, the king strikes the image with his sandal. The leader of the Thyiades picks up the image and bears it to a certain place which is full of chasms; there they tie a rope round the neck of the image and bury it in the place where they buried Charilla after she had hanged herself.

Hail to all the Tarantati whose names have been lost to us! May you never thirst!

Athanasius Kircher, Magnes sive de arte magnetica opus tripartitum pg. 759
Some tarantati let themselves hang from the trees by ropes, showing great enjoyment at such suspension – those stricken with this passion are usually the ones bitten by tarantulas in the habit of hanging the strings of their webs from trees.

Giorgio Baglivi, Dissertatio de anatome, morsu et effectibus tarantulae pg. 313
Those who have been bitten by the tarantula shortly thereafter fall to the ground half-dead, with a loss of strength and senses, with difficult breathing or moaning, often immobile and lifeless. With the beginning of the music, little by little these symptoms are attenuated, and the patient begins to move his fingers, his hands and then his feet, followed by other limbs; as the melodic rhythm becomes more pressing, the movement of his limbs gradually increases. If the patient is lying on the floor, he springs up to start the dance, sighs, and begins to contort himself in very strange ways. These first dances often last two or three hours: and after having rested briefly on the bed to wipe away his perspiration and to restore his strength, the patient resumes dancing with the same vigor. This can take place as many as a dozen times per day. The dances begin around dawn and continue without pause until around one in the afternoon. Sometimes they are compelled to stop, not because of their tiredness, but because they have perceived some dissonance in the musical instruments, a dissonance which, when it is perceived, provokes deep sighs and stabs of pain in the patient’s heart. They sigh and grieve at length until they resume dancing, the harmony having been reestablished. Around midday they rest from the music and dance. They put themselves to bed until their perspiration is over and then they refresh themselves with broth or over light food, given that the very serious lack of appetite which afflicts them would not permit them to take more substantial food. Around one o’clock in the afternoon, or at the latest around 2, they resume their dances with the same vigor. These dances last until evening, whereupon they have another light meal and then finally fall asleep. These dances usually continue for four days; rarely do they go beyond the sixth day. It is uncertain when the end will occur, since many continue to dance until they feel free of the symptoms, which usually takes place after the third or fourth day.

Anna Caggiano, Folklore Italiano 6.72
All the wives offer – understood as a loan – handkerchiefs, shawls, scarves, petticoats and linens of every color, pots of basil, lemon verbona, mint and rue, mirrors and baubles, and last but not least a great tub full of water. The surroundings are decorated in this way, and when everything is ready the victim of the bite, dressed in gaudy colors, chooses as she pleases ribbons, handkerchiefs and shoes that remind her of the colors of the tarantula and she adorns herself with them while waiting for the musicians.

Nicola Caputo of Lecce, De Tarantulae anatomie et morsu pg. 201
They customarily adorn the bedroom dedicated to the dance of the tarantati with verdant branches outfitted with numerous ribbons and silken sashes in gaudy colors. They place similar drapery throughout the room; sometimes they prepare a sort of cauldron or tub full of water, decorated with vine leaves and green fronds from other trees; or they make pretty fountains of limpid water spout, capable of lifting the spirits, and it is near these that the tarantati perform the dance, seeming to draw the greatest delight from them, as well as the rest of the setting. They contemplate the drapes, the fronds, and the artificial rivulets, and they wet their hands and heads at the fountain. They also remove damp bands of vine leaves from the cauldron and strew them all over their bodies, or – when the vessel is large enough – they plunge themselves inside, and in this way they can more easily bear the fatigue of the dance. It often happens that those who go dancing through the towns and hamlets accompanied by the usual music are brought to an orchard, where, in the shade of a tree, near a pond or brook offered by nature or prepared through craft, they abandon themselves to the dance with the greatest delight, while groups of youths in search of pleasure and pranks gather near. Among the latter mingle more than a few who are approaching old age and who, contemplating with serious curiosity the melodic frolicking, seem to exhort the youths with unspoken admonishment.

Ludovico Valletta, De Phalangio Apulo 76-77
With regard to the astonishing and complex agitation of the entire body, not long ago I personally saw a woman stricken with the poison who, although prey to the delirium of a violent fever, and her mind possessed with horrible phantasms – or rather, she was assaulted by a host of insolent demons – at the sound of the musical instruments she nonethless abandoned herself to a dance that was so excited, to such a frenetic agitation of her limbs and whirling her head, that my own head and eyes, enthralled by the same agitation, suffered from dizziness. This woman had suspended a rope from the ceiling of her humble dwelling, the end of which, just touching the floor in the middle of the room, she tenaciously squeezed between her hands; throwing herself upon it, she abandoned herself with the weight of her whole body, her feet planted on the floor, turning her head to and fro, her face glowing, with a surly look. I was deeply astonished, not being able to explain why the dizziness provoked by that rapid and violent head shaking did not make her reel and fall to the ground. Due to this agitation and the incredible exertion borne, the woman’s whole body and above all her face were covered with abundant perspiration; reddened by such strenuous agitation, she ran gasping to a great tub full of water prepared at her request, and she completely submerged her head in it, whence the cold water gave her some relief from the heat with which she blazed.

The tarantati rejoice at the sight of limpid waters, of artificial springs that flow with a soft murmur into a tub prepared for this purpose, gratifying themselves with the green fronds freshly picked from the trees and strewn here and there in the space dedicated to the dance in order to represent a forest

Ludovico Valletta, De Phalangio Apulo 92
The families of the tarantati hire the musicians, to whom many gifts are given and a great deal of drink is offered in addition to the daily compensation agreed upon, so that they may take some refreshment and thus play the musical instruments with greater vigor. It follows that a man of modest conditions, who laboriously earns a living with the diligent fatigue of his arms, in order to be cured of this illness, is often forced to pawn or sell objects of fundamental necessity, even if his household furnishings are shabby, in order to pay the aforementioned payment. It must be considered that no one would want to expose himself to this misfortune if he could combat the poison in another way, or if he did not feel compelled to dance from the bottom of his heart. I will spare the details of the many other aids and expedients the poison victims use to raise and cheer their melancholy spirits during the dance, items also needed for one reason or another. For instance there are artificial springs of limpid water constructed in such a way that the water is gathered and always returns to flow anew; these springs are covered and surrounded by green fronds, flowers and trees. Further, lasses dressed in sumptuous wedding gowns have the task of dancing with the tarantati, festively singing and playing the same melody with them during the dance; then there are the weapons and the multicolored drapery hung on the walls. All of these, and many others, cannot be procured without payment. 

Hail Maleotos’ daughter; may you never thirst!

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Etymologicum Magnum 62.9
Aletis: Some say that she is Erigone, the daughter of Ikarios, since she wandered everywhere seeking her father. Others say she is the daughter of Aigisthos and Klytemnestra. Still others say she is the daughter of Maleotos the Tyrrhenian; others that she is Medea, since, having wandered after the murder of her children, she escaped to Aigeus. Others say that she is Persephone, wherefore those grinding the wheat offer some cakes to her.

Hail Ariadne! May you never thirst!

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Plutarch, Life of Theseus 20.1
There are many other stories about these matters, and also about Ariadne, but they do not agree at all. Some say that she hung herself because she was abandoned by Theseus; others that she was conveyed to Naxos by sailors and there lived with Oinaros the priest of Dionysos, and that she was abandoned by Theseus because he loved another woman.

“everything dances”

Unlike the folk Catholic feast of Ss Peter and Paul, after which we’ve modeled our observance, the date of the Ἀλέτιδεια is calculated according to the lunisolar calendar of the Bakcheion and so wanders about a bit (which is appropriate concerning the meaning of the name.) This year the Ἀλέτιδεια happens to fall on the Summer Solstice and so I wanted to do something special for it. Although I’m still on hiatus because of the broken back and mountain of projects I’m going to share the story of an Aletide each day, including a couple of the male ones. Hail Dionysos, and hail his Wandering Ones!