auspicious omens

From the 38th Book of Nonnos of Panopolis’ Dionysiaka:

The Satyrs dived into a bear’s cave, and hollowed their little bed in the rock with sharp finger-nails in place of cutting steel; until the lightbringing morning shone, and the brightness of Dawn newly risen showed itself peacefully to both Indians and Satyrs. There was no carnage among them then, no conflict, and the shield which Bacchos had borne for six years lay far from the battle covered with spiders’ webs.


A foreboding sign was shown to winefaced Bacchos in the sky, an incredible wonder. For at midday, a sudden darkness was spread abroad, and a midday obscurity covered Phaethon with its black pall, and the hills were overshadowed as his beams were stolen away.


Then a happy omen was seen by impatient Bacchos, an eagle flying high through the air, holding a horned snake in his sharp talons. The snake twisted his bold neck, and slipt away of itself diving into the river Hydaspes. Trembling silence held all that innumerable host. Idmon alone stood untrembling, Idmon the treasury of learned lore, for he had been taught the secrets of Urania, the Muse who knows the round circuit of the stars: he had been taught by his learned art the shades on the Moon’s orb when in union with the Sun, and the ruddy flame of Phaethon stolen out of sight from his course behind the cone of darkness, and the clap of thunder, the heavenly bellow of the bursting clouds, and the shining comet, and the flame of meteors, and the fiery leap of the thunderbolt.

Uhm … really? I shouldn’t be surprised, but really? Bears, Spiders, the Shield of Dionysos, a Black Sun, an Eagle carrying off a Serpent, and Thunderstrike. Literally everything I’ve been posting about for the last week or so, all in one passage.

The Phrygian prophet then goes on to interpret these as auspicious omens indicating that he will triumph over his adversaries.

2 thoughts on “auspicious omens

  1. Pretty sure Nietzsche in Thus Sprach Zarathustra says that man is supposed to be like an eagle carrying a snake with the eagle representing our higher aspirations and the snake our animal instincts. The two are supposed to work together

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  2. Very fascinating! And, another horned serpent, which one doesn’t find too often, outside of Dionysian contexts and then some Celtic ones (and one Gallo-Thracian one)…

    Isn’t it great when texts give one exactly what one needed? Lovely!

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