Tree of Madness

A different role or type of altered state is emphasized at each of our festivals:

  • Lenaia = Lenai (the Priestesses of the Winepress)
  • Anthesteria = Komastai (the Revelers)
  • The Dionysia = Bakchai (the Frenzied)
  • Agrionia = Dysmaniai (the Insane)
  • Aletideia = Tarantati (those with a Taranta)
  • Pannychia = Theophilestai (the Godbeloved)
  • Oschophoria = Boukoloi (the Cowherders)
  • Lampteria = Thyiades (the Inflamed)
  • Foundation Day = Nyktipoloi (the Night-Wanderers)

All of these have male and female (or gender-neutral) expressions except Lenai, which only women can be. Men and others can still celebrate the festival; they just do different things. Likewise, only women acting as Lenai are Lenai; if you’re doing something else you’re doing something else. This holds true for all the festivals and their corresponding roles/states.

What’s involved? Well, that depends on the state/role. It could involve performing a set of rituals, exhibiting certain behaviors and abilities which one may not be able to access at other times, being awash in sensations and emotions and states of consciousness that have a particular flavor or rhythm which syncs with the energies and themes of the day, ways of relating to Dionysos and the various aspects of himself that he reveals to us through these acts and symbols – and so much more. There are hundreds of others not represented on our calendar.

But it’s something you’ve really got to feel out for yourself if you want understanding. Only when you’ve experienced both bakcheia and dysmania are you in a position to tell them apart. 

2 thoughts on “Tree of Madness

  1. “Only when you’ve experienced both bakcheia and dysmania are you in a position to tell them apart.”

    Agreed, and it’s an important distinction. Was just reading this article about ‘hypersanity’ and thought this quote was worth contemplating in a Dionysian context:

    “But whereas mental disorder is distressing and disabling, hypersanity is liberating and empowering.”

    That’s a simple but good check one can do on if one’s madness is ultimately productive or destructive (to oneself – sometimes very good mania is destructive to things that really need to be destroyed…. though that can include oneself… it’s complicated.)


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