In Euripides’ famous play The Bakchai, the exceptionally wise prophet Teiresias gives the following speech (lines 200-209) to his ivied comrade Kadmos, the former king of Thebes and an émigré from far-off Phoenicia:
To the Gods we mortals are all ignorant.
Those old traditions from our ancestors,
the ones we’ve had as long as time itself,
no argument will ever overthrow,
in spite of subtleties sharp minds invent.
Will someone say I disrespect old age,
if I intend to dance with ivy on my head?
Not so, for the God makes no distinctions—
whether the dancing is for young or old.
He wants to gather honours from us all,
to be praised communally, without division.
These are such important words, for they remind us that all the categories which are so important to humans – age, sex, race, physical ability, etc. – mean nothing to Dionysos, who welcomes all into his wild revels. This radical inclusivity is true not only of his worship in antiquity but can be found in thiasoi and other Bacchic communities today.
And so in that spirit I would like to share some of the contributions that Africans and Black Americans have made over the centuries to the Dionysian tradition. It was difficult to limit myself to just 10 figures or events, but hopefully that will be enough to inspire my readers to dig deeper and uncover other examples, of which there are many.
5 thoughts on “Happy Black history month from the House of Vines!”
I’m glad you’re doing this because I was wondering about this myself actually. Not to mention someone last year was trying to say you hate Black people because you criticized Black on Jewish violence in your essay on Dionysos and Jewish people
That was a dig at a couple of my hypocritical interlocutors, not Black people in general. I’ve got no problem with Black people, provided they’re not going around beating up Jews, or anyone else for that matter. Which, of course, has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Besides, I deal with folks on an individual basis, not as collectives.
Oh believe me. I already know you have nothing against them. I’m just upset they said that because it’s like you can never win with them. As someone who was trained in the natural sciences at one point, I can’t help but notice that these people are caught up in a serious case of confirmation bias. They legitimately only want to see evidence that you are a bigot and will anything to the contrary.
Didn’t mean to start this conversation on what was supposed to be positive but given the topic I can’t help but feel it was inevitable
Oh, it was practically inevitable, and you’re right about the confirmation bias. Even if I hadn’t given them ammunition by taking and posting those pics, they would have found something to get upset at me for – and have, as this is hardly new. Nor does it matter – they’ve always gone after me, but now they’re turning on their own kind in a delightful purity spiral. While they devour one another, the rest of us can go about worshiping the Gods and creating communities.
May the Erinyes show them the pain and frustration they have caused
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