Friendly strangers came to town

I’ve decided to hold off starting the book until Anthesteria; since my last post I’ve come up with a title, a rough synopsis and principle character sketches. In proper dithyrambic and Commedia dell’arte fashion I plan to fill in the rest through inspiration and improvisation – right before your very eyes!  I also think I may need to expand this from 66 to 100 poems, as we’ve got a lot of territory to cover. (Approximately 2,890.6 miles according to the Google, but that’s assuming we go in a straight line and we don’t do anything straight round these parts!) This is going to be so much fun. Although intended as a stand alone volume, you may want to familiarize yourself with the rest of the canon before we start, as there’ll be lots of allusion, intertextuality, cross-overs, apophenia and other means of stitching things together on display. (Including pretty, pretty red thread.) It’s the perfect time to start work on the book too, since after Anthesteria our festival calendar at the House of Vines is clear up until 18 Chthonieion when we’ll be celebrating Orgia.

Bacchic blessings to you all, and don’t leave your dead thirsty!

A glimpse behind the curtain

With this book I’m doing things a little differently. Before I’ve figured out what to call it – or even the stories and overarching themes I’ll be exploring through verse – I came up with the poems’ titles. I’m not sure how much the poems will reflect their titles, but it should be fun to find out!

* Præfatio (foreward)
* By the will of the Gods they were put among the stars
* When you show the moon to a child, it sees only your finger
* In my country there are no gods left. The Romans have driven them out.
* There are some who say that they have hidden themselves in the mountains, but I do not believe it
* Three nights I have been on the mountains seeking them everywhere. I did not find them.
* The image must rise again through the image
* Mountain calleth to mountain, deep unto deep!
* Par cœur (by heart)
* Just as the animals speak and the earth gives milk and honey, so now something supernatural echoes out of him
* The aurochs is proud and has great horns; it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns; a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle
* The plague takes images that are dormant, a latent disorder, and suddenly extends them into the most extreme gestures
* Being an imitation of the circling passages in the labyrinth, and consisting of certain rhythmic involutions and evolutions
* Choreomania (dance madness)
* Jesus came to crucify the world
* Time After Time
* This world is a corpse-eater
* Earth apple
* Überich (superego)
* Megalopsychos (great-souled)
* The myth of certainty
* The goat that departs
* Achsenzeit (axial age)
* Kulturkampf (culture struggle)
* I am a fool, but I know I’m a fool and that makes me smarter than you
* Cela va sans dire (that goes without saying)
* Mortal men ask the Gods for good things every day, but they never pray that they may make good use of them
* The winter will ask what we did all summer
* The Lord did everything in a mystery
* Trust is like a glass vase, beautiful except there is no way of putting it back together when it breaks
* I see your fallen body bathed in tears of blood
* Geist of the Spätantike (spirit of late antiquity)
* Bag End (cul-de-sac)
* External signs revealed what the mind conceals within
* How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?
* But we are strong, each in our purpose, and we are all more strong together
* Unterschwellig (beneath the threshold)
* They’ve promised that dreams can come true – but forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too
* Both the cross and the gallows are made of wood
* Their echo is blurred
* The Universe is a labyrinth made of labyrinths. Each leads to another.
* No matter how big the sea may be, sometimes two ships meet
* This is what you should have praised, this gentle land, in which you were born
* Les mystères païens (the mysteries of the pagans)
* Blood in the snow
* Cast no dirt in the well that gives you water
* Bees touch no fading flowers
* The evening crowns the day
* Who was it that said that coincidence was just God’s way of remaining anonymous?
* It was a marvelous sight: a mighty revelation
* I know not what it means. Of a truth I know it too well.
* Les mystères des lettres (The mystery of the letters)
* Chemins de la déviance (paths of deviance)
* Therefore, the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things
* Hiranyagarbha (golden womb)
* Ohrwurm (earworm)
* The law was the tree
* Indeed, one must utter a mystery
* Injurious is the gift that takes away freedom
* It is only by means of right understanding and right ethics that the position which has been won can be held
* Men must be strong and robust so that they can put up with the hard labor they must endure
* The road goes ever on and on
* Come freely, go safely and leave something of the happiness you bring
* This custom spread and gradually became a tradition

Sounds like it’s gonna be an interesting book, huh?

I suspect I will not be making my Anthesteria deadline; but who knows what manner of frenzy may seize me?

We are everywhere

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I was reading Matthew Lloyd’s Dionysus, masculinity, and the return of Hephaestus when I came across this interesting detail:

Indeed, Dionysus maintains his appeal to the more traditionally masculine. Nick Offerman, the actor best known for playing Ron Swanson in the sitcom Parks and Recreation, is an avid worshipper of Dionysus. In his 2014 autobiography, Paddle Your Own Canoe he says:

if I had to choose one god to serve, I would choose… Dionysus. The Greek god of wine, song, and theatre. My Eucharist is found in entertaining people, receiving the bread and the wine of laughter and tears from the crowd, and being brought to catharsis by the work of others. When I take the stage, Dionysus (or Bacchus) sees and hears my ministry and he is muchly pleased.

To Offerman, Dionysus is a god of theatre, revelry, and performance.

The public perception of Offerman is that he is a traditionally manly man. This perception is partially based on the character of Ron Swanson, but also on Offerman’s skill at woodworking. In Chapter 7 of Paddle Your Own Canoe, “Enter Dionysus”, he discusses his early time in the theatre and how his skill with his hands supported his theatrical pursuits. Nevertheless, he denies his own manliness – largely because of those Dionysiac tendencies. In a recent interview with Men’s Health, he says: “I went to theatre school. I took two semesters of ballet. I’m the sissy in my family. I cry with pretty great regularity. It’s not entirely accurate to equate me with manliness.” Indeed, even for Offerman Dionysus is not necessarily male – the quotation from Paddle Your Own Canoe above ends: “Or she. No reason to stick with the tired dogma of the patriarchy.”

Third Degree: Round Four

Snake-handlers

Thomas (MJ) came close to stumping me with this one:

I’m going to go with my greatest passion (read: obsession) and say notarization.

But then all of that crazy research I did on the Ptolemaic administration paid off and I recalled reading about ἀγορανόμοι in a Bacchic context. (You can read more about them here and here, and the last site has a bunch of digitized contracts and seals to paw through.)

As it turns out, I was mistaken.

Or at least I couldn’t turn up anything relating to Ptolemaic notaries and Dionysos – however I did find this inscription from Makedonia:

(A) ἔτους αʹ καὶ μʹ καὶ ρʹ Ἀρτεμισίου· | Παράμονος Θεογένους vac. | ἀγορανομήσας τοῦ θιάσου | ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου Διονύσωι. vac.

(B) τὸ κοινὸν τῶν θιασ|τῶν Παράμονον | Θεογένου.

(A) In the year 141 in the month Artemisios, Paramonos son of Theogenes, having served as market-overseer (agoranomos) of the society (thiasos), set this up for Dionysos from his own resources.

(B) The association (koinon) of society members (thiasōtai) honor with a crown Paramonos son of Theogenes.

Which Phil Harland describes as follows:

Slab of marble, now in the Beroea Museum (inv. no. L 585). There is a framed relief under text A depicting two male figures on either side of an altar. One figure offers a libation while the other holds a scepter in his left hand and a libation cup in his right hand. V. Allamani-Souri identifies the figure on the left as Paramonos and the figure on the right as the god Dionysos (see EBGR 2009, no. 7). Beneath the frame there is a crown with the three inscribed lines of text B on either side. Like many associations, this society adopted a civic title (market-overseer) for one of its internal functionaries.

Further context can be found in the Epigraphic Bulletin:

V. Allamani-Souri, “Σχόλια σὲ μιὰ ἀναθηματικὴ ἐνεπίγραφὴ στήλη ἀπὸ τὴ Βέροια”, in Β΄ Πανελλήνιο Συνέδριο Ἐπιγραφικῆς, p. 31-47 [BE 2011, 408]: A.-S. republishes the dedication to Dionysos by Paramonos, agoranomos of a thiasos, and the honorary inscription of the thiasos for Paramonos (Beroia, 7 BCE; I.Beroia 22; SEG XLVIII 751). On the relief, she identifies the man on the left as Paramonos, and the larger libating male figure on the right as Dionysos. The use of the term θίασος shows that the association was not a professional association of Dionysiac artists, but an association of worshippers of Dionysos. The expression ἀγορανομήσας τοῦ θιάσου means that Paramonos exercised this function in the association (cf. SEG XI 50). The agoranomos of the thiasos was probably responsible for the festival (cf. the expression πανηγύρεως ἀγορανόμος). A dedication of a civic agoranomos to Dionysos is attested in Dion (C. Makaronas, “Νέες εἰδήσεις ἐκ Δίου τοῦ Πιερικοῦ. Ἡ θέσις τοῦ ἱεροῦ τοῦ Διός”, AEphem 1937, p. 529 no. 2: Διονύσῳ καὶ τῷ θιάσῳ Πρι|μίων Φολβίας ἀγορανο|[μ]ήσας ἐκ τ[ῶν ἰδίων]).

Showing that this was not just an isolated incidence of a Dionysian notary.

So, even though I had to resort to Google, I’m gonna count that one as a win too.

Third Degree: Round Three

Andrew Bayless made the sophistically astute observation:

Dionysos is the God of Life. Everything is within Him. So that would mean that there is nothing that cannot be connected to Dionysos. So my proposal is that nothing is the answer to the challenge!

Except that Dionysos is not just the God of Life, as the Orphics of Olbia remind us:

βίος. θάνατος. βίος. ἀλήθεια. Ζαγρεύς. Διόνυσος. [Life. Death. Life. Truth. Zagreus. Dionysos.] (SEG 28.659)

Indeed, they considered him the force that unites and transcends all polarities and contraries, as we see from the other bone inscriptions found at the site:

SEG 28.660:
Peace. War. Truth. Lie. Dionysos

And:

SEG 28.661:
Dionysos. Truth. Body. Soul.

Which goes to the heart of the symbolism of the Midnight or Black Sun, discussed by Gwendolyn Taunton here. An even more far-reaching exploration of the subject can be found here by Tracy R Twyman but I highly recommend you take a lot of drugs before reading or it’s likely not to make a lick of sense.

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Third Degree: Round Two

C. A. A. proposed “Lego bricks.”

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Which naturally called to mind the current of thought which identifies the Empedoclean rizomata (“roots” or elements, the primordial “building blocks” if you will of material existence) with the scattered members of Dionysos, as Plutarch relates in On the E at Delphi 9:

As for his passage and distribution into waves and water, and earth, and stars, and nascent plants and animals, they hint at the actual change undergone as a rending and dismemberment, but name the God himself Dionysos or Zagreus or Nyktelios or Isodaites. Deaths too and vanishings do they construct, passages out of life and new births, all riddles and tales to match the changes mentioned.

But then my mind flowed back to how that violent distribution occurred, which children unconsciously mimic in their spirited play, resulting in some very Artaudian digressions, particularly these random and disjointed fragments.

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