Deerly beloved

While I dig the cosmic connotations the Orphics gave the nebris, it can mean many different things to different people.

For instance, it can be a symbol of personal liberation:

Edith and I are Maenads now with a “longing for the hills & ecstasy.” Let Frances expect to see me at the midland station with cone-pointed thyrsos & fawn-skin. Tell him I shall walk to Lindelhurst in this array. He need not think of hiding my originality in a fly! (Katherine Harris Bradley to the family of Frances Brooks in a letter dated 1882)

Of jubilant procession:

That Osiris is identical with Dionysos who could more fittingly know than yourself, Klea? For you lead the Thyiadic dances at Delphi and have been consecrated by your father and mother in the holy rites of Osiris. If, however, for the benefit of others it is needful to adduce proofs of this identity, let us leave undisturbed what may not be told, but the public ceremonies which the priests perform in the burial of the Apis, when they convey his body on an improvised bier, do not in any way come short of a Bacchic procession; for they fasten skins of fawns about themselves, and carry Bacchic wands and indulge in shoutings and movements exactly as do those who are under the spell of the Dionysiac ecstasies. (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 35)

Or of destructive transformation:

On the road from Megara there is a spring on the right, and a little farther on a rock. It is called the bed of Aktaion, for it is said that he slept thereon when weary with hunting, and that into this spring he looked while Artemis was bathing with her nymphs. Stesichoros of Himera says that the Goddess cast a deer-skin round Aktaion to make sure that his hounds would kill him, so as to prevent his taking Semele to wife. (Pausanias, Description Greece 9.2.3)

The bit from Stesichoros is interesting, and not just for the crime he ascribes to Pentheus’ cousin Aktaion. (I’ll let that one settle in for a moment.) 

Himera is not far from Syracuse and Tyndaris, which held interesting celebrations for the Huntress, according to the Anonymous Life of Theokritos 1b:

Others says that bucolic poetry was first performed at Tyndaris in Sicily. When Orestes took the image of Artemis away from Tauris in Scythia, he received an oracle, that he should wash himself in seven rivers flowing from one source. Therefore Orestes went to Rhegium in Italy, and washed away the curse in the so-called “separated” rivers. Then he crossed over to Tyndaris in Sicily, where the inhabitants sang their local songs in honour of the Goddess, and this was the origin of the tradition. They say that when the men sang, they prepared a loaf with many images of wild animals on it, a pouch full of all kinds of seeds, and wine in a goatskin, to pour out as an offering for those they met. They wore a garland, with the antlers of a deer on their head, and a staff in their hands. The victor in the contest received the loaf of the man he had vanquished; and the victor remained in the city of Syracuse, while the losers went out to the surrounding villages to collect food for themselves. They sang songs full of fun and laughter, and added the following propitious words:

Receive good fortune,
Receive good health,
Which we bring from the Goddess,
Which she has commanded.

 

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