The Oration of Aristides

A few years ago I was looking for λεγόμενα (“things said”) which I could incorporate into the ritual and meditation practices of the Starry Bull tradition, and this led to one of the most potent tools for cleansing in our arsenal — the Oration of Aristides.

The Aristides in question is Aelius Aristides, a second century Roman lawyer, hypochondriac and initiate of Asklepios, Serapis and Dionysos. He kept exhaustive records of his illnesses, dreams, spiritual encounters and visits to various healing and oracular shrines, and the unconventional cures he was prescribed – by doctors, priests and his various Gods and Spirits. This work – the Hieroi Logoi or “Sacred Tales” – give a fascinating glimpse into the interior life of what we’d consider today a slightly neurotic spirit-worker. Some of his dream encounters come off really shamanic. Like at one point he gets cut into pieces by a flaming sword and in another Asklepios reaches into his chest and scoops out the pollution/illness. There were a bunch more but it’s been ages since I’ve read him.

The Orations are less autobiographical; they’re rhetorical exercises praising cities and institutions, and salutary hymns in honor of various divinities. The passage we use in the Starry Bull tradition – II.331k – comes from an Oration to Dionysos written on the occasion of Aristides’ initiation, if memory serves.

οὐδὲν ἄρα οὕτως βεβαίως δεδήσεται, οὐ νόσῳ, οὐκ ὀργῇ, οὐ τύχῃ οὐδεμιᾷ, ὃ μὴ οἷόν τ᾽ ἔσται λῦσαι τῷ Διονύσῳ.

Oudèn árâ hoútos bebaíos dedésetai ou nóso ouk orgê ou týkhe oudemía, ho mé hoîon t’estai lýsai tô Dionýso.

Nothing can be so firmly bound – by illness, wrath or fortune – that cannot be released by [the Lord] Dionysos.

7 thoughts on “The Oration of Aristides

  1. I can attest to the power of this deceptively simple line. I use it in a variety of ways, sometimes simply as a prayer for deliverance, sometimes more magically. Often in times of greatest emotional turmoil, when I can’t manage anything else. If nothing else, I find the repetition helps ground me and remind me to put my trust in the god. I’m so glad you found this.


    1. It really is an amazingly effective piece of liturgy, especially since it was a throwaway line in an otherwise unremarkable prose hymn. I wonder if Aristides was divinely inspired, or if he picked it up from one of the groups he was initiated into (and if so what other goodies did they possess which have been lost to us) or if he was just a skilled liturgist after all the different kinds of ritual he participated in. Hell, maybe it was a confluence of all three. Whatever the case I’m glad we have it, as it has proven useful in a wide array of situations.


      1. Also shows why it’s so important to read primary sources and not solely rely on the bits and pieces that come to us through scholarship. Academia does not have the same interests in these topics as we do.


        1. So true! Do you know how many times an author will reference some tantalizing detail and then move on without providing further information – and even worse no citations so I can do my own follow-up research. Grrr. So annoying.

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    2. Do you use the Greek or English versions? While both are effective, I’ve found them to have very different energies and employ them for different situations. (Especially since I’m still memorizing the Greek, though I’m pretty close. I usually just need a refresher and then it kicks in. Galina picked it up like a snap.)


      1. I almost always use the English. Now you know me, I love using prayers from other languages and I’ve memorized much longer passages in Greek so it’s not that, but when I initially tried to do so, it just…didn’t click as well. I think it’s because for me, with this particular phrase, I need to deeply feel the meaning of it, especially when I’m in distress. And no matter what, that’s never going to be as easy and natural as it is in my own native language.


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