The travels of Dionysos in the North and his identification as Óðr are an important strand of the Starry Bear tradition but far from all that we are about. Indeed there is a whole constellation of archaic myth and ritual attached to the name, and more broadly we are concerned with the historical intersections of Germano-Slavic and Greco-Italian religious culture which occurred at different levels and through different means depending on time and place, with Northern Italy being among the earliest and most important centers of this. (Everything always comes back to Italy.)
Already in the rock art of the Valcamonica (the earliest strata of which date back eight to six thousand years before Christ) we find a potent complex of symbols such as solar wheels, meanders, spirals, geometric shapes and Labyrinths, as well as the Camunian Rose, the distaff and similar weaving tools, boats, bear and other hunt scenes, Giant-slaying Horned Warriors and proto-Runes – the Runic script, scholars theorize, having evolved out of archaic Etruscan directly or via Rhaetian. Interestingly, a late Rhaetic inscription found in Verona (once ruled by none other than heroic Þiðreks, who recently got a write-up at The Wild Hunt) invokes Bacchus alongside the Slavic deity Veles who could be represented as a serpent with a bear’s head, much like the Badalisc who is still a favorite figure of the region’s Christmas mumming traditions. (Echoes of Vǫlundr and the Bear, anyone?) The Valcamonica also encompasses Benevento (with its famous witches), Bergamo (home of Arlecchino) and Puplonia the fabled city of Fufluns Pacha who was still revered as Faflon into Leland’s day, despite the place having been nominally converted since at least the time of Lombard conquest. (Don’t get me started on those long-beards for that’s a rather chewy hasenpfeffer as well as Perticae, pesky Lokian epiphanies and the Squasc and Gigat, oh my!)
And that’s nothing compared to what we’ll uncover on the shores of the Black Sea.