The Terror of the Threshold

One of the greatest challenges to reconstructing an authentic Dionysian eschatology is that there wasn’t really one in antiquity. 

What you find instead are a loose collection of rituals, myths, rough concepts and such that each group then fashioned into its own unique mysteries. They interpreted things differently, emphasized certain elements more than others, took on local influences and generally evolved over time if given the chance. 

And yet for all of that bewildering, chaotic complexity I imagine that a Dionysian from Southern Italy in the second century could enter a dining-hall full of fellow-initiates from North Africa, the Balkans, England and the Ukraine and once they’d settled the language issue — Greek or Latin — could probably have a meaningful conversation about death and what came after, for they were all part of a seamless tapestry of tradition. 

This group concerned themselves with the banquet table piled high for the feast while for that group it was the krater overflowing with wine, reflecting torchlight like dancing stars. These ones thought only of Dionysos and his bride twined in amorous congress while those ones had eyes only for the crowd of elegant dancers, faces whitened like masks. Some the bull’s horns on the altar, some the ivy winding around the column, some the maenads in the distance hunting in the woods, some the floor littered with leaves and broken cups and the bones of beautiful beasts. Others saw the maiden hesitating at her door, glancing back at the life she’s leaving behind while Eros or a boy who looks very much like him beckons to her with a ball of string in his golden hand.

Take a step back.

Do you see the picture that all of these scenes together make?

You will when you’re dead, if you’re one of us.

And that’s why I’m not opposed to modern innovations — as long as they hit all the right notes.

You see, folks, it’s all about the rhythm.

The clapping of hands.
The thunder of drums.
Stomping feet.
Hearts beating.

You hit the right notes, that’s when the screams begin.

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