As the month of Chthonieion draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate the noumenia of Auxiteion I have had much to reflect upon.
There is, for instance, the mystery represented in this sequence of our calendar, with life, wealth, and growth arising from below, out of the shadowy realm of death.
Then, of course, there is the source of our next month’s name:
The founder of Heraia was Heraieus the son of Lykaon, and the city lies on the right of the Alpheios, mostly upon a gentle slope, though a part descends right to the Alpheios. Walks have been made along the river, separated by myrtles and other cultivated trees; the baths are there, as are also two temples to Dionysos. One is to the God named Polites (Citizen), the other to Auxites (the Giver of Increase), and they have a building there where they celebrate orgiastic rites in honor of Dionysos. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.26.1)
Here we find Dionysos with a double aspect, civic and agrarian – and possibly a third, unless the οἴκημά was consecrated under one of these. This is an interesting term, by the way – it can mean anything from a chamber in a temple to a brothel, a storeroom, a prison cell, or even a cage for animals. Makes you wonder what kind of mystic orgies were conducted there, huh?
Especially when we consider that the eponymous founder of Heraia was one of the 50 sons Lykaon, famed baby-killer and werewolf:
Lykaon brought a human baby to the altar of Zeus Lykaios and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend immediately after the sacrifice he was changed from a man to a wolf […] ever since the time of Lykaon a man has changed into a wolf at the sacrifice to Zeus Lykaios, but the change is not for life; if, when he is a wolf, he abstains from human flesh, after nine years he becomes a man again, but if he tastes human flesh he remains a beast for ever. (Pausanias 8.2.1-6)
The baby he killed was Arkas, the Starry Bear:
He is said to be the son of Jove and Callisto, whom Lycaon served at a banquet, cut up with other meat, when Jupiter came to him as a guest. For Lycaon wanted to know whether the one who had asked for his hospitality was a God or not. For this deed he was punished by no slight punishment, for Jupiter, quickly overturning the table, burned the house with a thunderbolt, and turned Lycaon himself into a wolf. But the scattered limbs of the boy he put together, and gave Arcas to a certain Aetolian to care for. (Hyginus, Astronomica 2.4)
Arkas the Bear King afterwards became a great hunter, founded many cities, and was remembered for his just rule as much as for teaching his people how to weave and bake bread.
Why this stands out in particular for me – aside from the Starry Bear reference, natch – is that it brings to mind the Oracle for the month of Auxiteion:
“It is only when a man feels himself face to face with such horrors that he can understand their true import.”
Wanna guess what horrors Dionysos is referring to?
This verse, from the Starry Bear bibliomancy system, was taken from the first chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula:
But just then the moon, sailing through the black clouds, appeared behind the jagged crest of a beetling, pine-clad rock, and by its light I saw around us a ring of wolves, with white teeth and lolling red tongues, with long, sinewy limbs and shaggy hair. They were a hundred times more terrible in the grim silence which held them than even when they howled. For myself, I felt a sort of paralysis of fear. It is only when a man feels himself face to face with such horrors that he can understand their true import.
Oh yeah. Gonna be an interesting month, I wager.