A while back Tetra of the Stone Pillar and I were discussing Starry Bear mysteries, which he eloquently stitched together like so:
So I just learned something pretty crazy which I’m sure you already knew: ARKAS WAS THE KID THAT LYCAON SACRIFICED!!!
In my quest to understand Hermes better I decided to look into the great Bear King Arkas who appears to be a chthonic form of Hermes considering that his name is one of Hermes’ epithets (which is corraborated further by Maia being Arkas’ wet nurse thus making the two children brothers). I did some reading and found out that Arkas was the kid Lycaon either sacrificed to Zeus or gives to Zeus to eat which leads to Lycaon becoming the first werewolf.
Which totally made me realize a deeper connection between Hermes and Tarantism. The symptoms of Tarantism as you have noted resemble Lycanthropy and there is a whole lot of wolf symbolism in the lore surrounding the phenomenon. You have alluded in your poetry to Tarantism having parallels to Maenadism. If we take into consideration how one of the major roles in Maenadism is to be both nurturer and slayer of Dionysos and that this parallels that slaying of the divine child we see in the cult of Zeus Lykaios (if we go with Burkert’s hypothesis that the lycanthropy lore surrounding the sacrifices and feasts in the cult were initiatory rites for ephebes which then of course gives Hermes and Dionysos further syncretic links in that both follow a “Bull begets a serpent and serpent begets a bull” schema in regards to the divine child being killed which leads to union with that child). The association of the snakes on the Kerykion with Zeus’ relationship with Rhea Cybele which then leads to the relationships of Zeus and Persephone and Dionysos and Ariadne thus is even now less of a coincidence. This leads me to think that Tarantism could be the bisexual Bacchic-Hermaic intersection between forms of initiatory ecstasy connected to the respective deities.
Now, what I’m going to write next is just pure speculation but what if the Bear King is the intersection between the Bull and Wolf Kings? If memory serves, some have suggested that the name of the Geatish hero Beowulf could be a kenning “bee-wolf” which as you know means bear. So a bear is a wolf that goes after bees (or more accurately, their hives). The bear is a predator like a wolf but is a game animal like a bull. And hibernation is certainly connected to dying and rising. So many threads to follow…
And I just realized something else – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor never set over the horizon. If Apollo is the Sun in the Sky and Dionysos is the Sun in the Underworld then it only makes sense that the constellation who used to be Hermes’ heroic form is a constellation who is always in between these realms since the Hermaic sphere is the intersection between the Apollonian and Dionysian spheres.
I would arrange some of the details a little differently, and there are some important pieces missing (particularly in the shoulder area) but I’ll say this, he’s pretty damn astute.