Drink up!

Happy νουμηνία everybody!

Unless things have significantly changed since my ostracism, most contemporary Hellenic polytheists observe some variation of the Attic calendar, meaning that for them Thargelion (Θαργηλιών) has just begun — but according to the system we use in the Bakcheion it’s the month of Kantharos (Κάνθαρος), the sacred cup of Dionysos. In fact the God is so strongly associated with this particular style of drinking vessel — famed for its elongated handles — that it’s often used to identify him on vases, frescoes, sculptures and the like when names or other distinguishing characteristics are absent.

In myth the cup was said to have been created by Hephaistos in gratitude for the role Dionysos played in his reconciliation with Hera and readmittance to Olympos (not to be confused with the urn Hephaistos also made Dionysos, which was then gifted to the Goddess Beneath the Sea Thetis for the kind assistance she gave during his fight with Lykourgos, which unfortunately was destined to hold the bones and ashes of her beloved son Achilles and not his care-banishing φάρμακον.) Bearing Dionysos’s blessing the cup was said to be impossible to drain, even by as thirsty a hero as Herakles. In a related myth Herakles borrowed the cup and used it to sail across the ocean.

Archaic poets such as Archilochos and Pindar, by metaphor and metonymy, referred to the kantharos as the “shield of Dionysos” and shields as the “kantharos of Ares,” while comic poets played up the fact that in Greek kantharos can also refer to a beetle, specifically the dung-beetle which was the form that the Egyptian God Khepri (“Becoming” or “Manifestation,” like the Orphic Phanês Protogonos) took when he rolled the aged solar deity Rē up the primordial mountain so that he could be reborn at dawn. (Which makes an interesting parallel with the Herakles myth, since I believe that he was ferrying Helios across the ocean in the borrowed kantharos.)

Orphic, Pythagorean and Platonic authors gave mystic, metaphysical and political significance to the cup and mixing-bowl (or krater) of Dionysos, which is too weird and tangential to get into here, though I was mulling over some of it this morning as I greeted Eos and watched the lovely ῥοδοδάκτυλος θεά drive the darkness back through the dense trees outside the window above my writing desk.

I also contemplated the Year Divination I did during our Foundation Day celebration and specifically what Dionysos said the month of Kantharos would hold in store for us. If you recall, he compared it to Ρ (Rho) the letter overseen by the magnificent mother Goddess Rheia who was one of the τροφοί (“nurses”) of Dionysos, and according to Philodemos and Euphorion either put the pieces of bibulous baby Bakchos back together after the Titans tore him apart, or brought them to Delphi where they were stored beneath the sacred tripod of Apollon Pythios. Plato in the Kratylos (402b) derives her name from ῥέω (“flow, flux, stream”) and Orphic and Homeric speculation about the liquid, oceanic element being the origin and outflow of all things, from the Gods on down. He also connects it to Herakleitos’ famous maxim, though later in the dialogue (509a) instead of the normal πάντα ῥεῖ (“everything flows”) Plato gives it as πάντα χορεί (“everything dances”) which he clearly got from listening to Jim Morrison. (You know how he loved that New Music.)

According to the Starry Bull Alphabet Oracle, the letter Ρ signifies:

Rabasso (ῤᾰβάσσω) to make a noise by dancing or beating time with the feet.
Radis (ῤάδις) cyclical, whirling, rotation.
Riza (ῤίζα) root, element, outflow.
Rimma (ῤιμμα) throw, cast, swing.
Roomai (ῤώομαι) to move with speed or violence, to rush on, forceful.

That should sure make for an interesting month, especially when that month is inundated with the ever-flowing wine from Dionysos’ kantharos.

2 thoughts on “Drink up!

  1. Kala Noumenia to you! I’m about to go give my offerings before work. I can’t believe it’s already Thargelion / Daisos / Kantharos. Hopefully good things will happen this month. Or at least interesting things.


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