Hunting the Wild Eastern Sow

The icon of Dionysos Choiropsalas and his female companion highlighted in my Bakcheion pic post is rather intriguing. I assumed that she was either a Nymph or Mainad since I’m not familiar with a Greek or Roman Goddess by that name, and I think I did a thorough search when I first acquired it which turned up zilch. It is an interesting name, however: Αυγέτρις, from the Ancient Greek αὐγή (augḗ, “sunlight, dawn”) likely derived from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ewg- (“to increase, to enlarge.”) Considering how often Daughters of the Sun and Dawn Goddesses show up in Starry Bull and Bear stuff and my poetry generally, that’s quite significant. Naturally this also reminds one of the Germanic word auge (“eye; to see.”)

Χοιροψάλας is, of course, one of my all-time favorite Dionysian epithets.

Do not Argives sacrifice to Aphrodite divaricatrix [lit. “with spread legs”] (Peribasos), Athenians to her as “courtesan” (Hetaira), and Syracusans to her “of the beautiful buttocks” (Kallipygos), whom the poet Nikander has somewhere called “of the beautiful rump” (Kallipluton)? I will be silent about Dionysos Choiropsalas. The Sikyonians worship Dionysos as the God who presides over the woman’s secret parts; thus they reverence the originator of licentiousness, as overseer of what is shameful. (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 2.39)

Many scholars, too, prefer to remain silent when it comes to this aspect of the God, often leaving it in untranslated Greek or blushingly rendered into Latin. It means “cunt-plucker” or more literally “pig-catcher,” from the Greek χοῖρος meaning “sow,” often slang for female genitalia.

While it’s true that Dionysos likes piggies, and not just in an Eleusinian context:

Swine are held by the Egyptians to be unclean beasts. Firstly, if an Egyptian touch a hog in passing by, he goes to the river and dips himself in it, clothed as he is; and secondly, swineherds, native born Egyptians though they be, are alone of all men forbidden to enter any Egyptian temple; nor will any give a swineherd in marriage, nor take a wife from their women; but swineherds intermarry among themselves. Nor do the Egyptians think right to sacrifice swine to any God save the Moon and Dionysos; to these they sacrifice their swine at the same time, in the same season of full moon; then they eat of the flesh. The Egyptians have an account of the reason why they sacrifice swine at this festival, yet abominate them at others; I know it, but it is not fitting that I should relate it. But this is how they sacrifice swine to the Moon: the sacrificer lays the end of the tail and the spleen and the caul together and covers them up with all the fat that he finds about the belly, then burns all with fire; as for the rest of the flesh, they eat it at the time of full Moon when they sacrifice the victim; but they will not taste it on any other day. Poor men, having but slender means, mould swine of dough, which they then bake and sacrifice. To Dionysos, on the evening of his festival, everyone offers a porker which he kills before his door and then gives to the swineherd himself who has sold it, for him to take away. The rest of the festival of Dionysos is ordered by the Egyptians much as it is by the Greeks, except for the dances; but in place of the phallos they have invented the use of puppets a cubit long moved by strings, which are carried about the villages by women, the male member moving and near as big as the rest of the body; a flute-player goes before, the women follow after, singing of Dionysos. There is a sacred legend which gives the reason for the appearance and motions of these puppets. (Herodotos, Histories 2.47-48)

From the rest of Clement’s passage I think it’s pretty clear which type of sow he hunts. (Though note that Herodotos also connects the pig-sacrifice to phallophoria.)

Also, let’s not be coy. While Dionysos has tons of epithets and cult practices associated with that nebulous concept “fertility” – this is straight up about genitals and fucking.

Now those of you who are familiar with the Starry Bear side of things are probably stroking your chins about now and going, “Hey wait, isn’t Dionysos’ other wife associated with pigs too?”

And you would be correct!

Freyja is most gently born (together with Frigg): she is wedded to the man named Ódr. Their daughter is Hnoss: she is so fair, that those things which are fair and precious are called hnossir. Ódr went away on long journeys, and Freyja weeps for him, and her tears are red gold. Freyja has many names, and this is the cause thereof: that she gave herself sundry names, when she went out among unknown peoples seeking Ódr: she is called Mardöll and Hörn, Gefn, Sýr. Freyja had the necklace Brísinga-men. She is also called Lady of the Vanir. (Gylfaginning 35)

Of course, pigs and more particularly the boar have tons of significance among the Norse, and within Vanic cults in particular representing war, valor, luck, kingship, the hunt, abundance, fertility, the domestic sphere, and yeah, raw sexuality. But note that Freyja isn’t just called Sýr — she also transforms her champion Óttar into the golden-bristled battle-swine Hildisvíni and rides him out to meet the Giant Völva Hyndla, something I’ve discussed at length in my piece comparing Freyja and Kírkē, the Daughter of Helios. Also note that while Sýr almost certainly means “sow” a number of Scandinavian and German Romantics attempted to make it mean “Syrian” connecting Freyja with Near Eastern Love and War Goddesses such as Ishtar, Astarte and Aphrodite whose lost love was slain by a boar.

Circles, etc.