Author: thehouseofvines

More resources on Mister E.

http://opsopaus.com/OM/BA/AGEDE/Intro.html
http://www.crystalinks.com/empedocles.html
http://www.philosophy.gr/presocratics/empedocles.htm
https://www.academia.edu/7868339/_Popular_03_Empedocles_the_Magician_2004_
https://www.academia.edu/33435521/Empedocles
https://www.academia.edu/1220476/Mythical_structures_in_Empedocles
https://www.academia.edu/7628483/Salvation_for_the_Wanderer_Odysseus_the_Gold_Leaves_and_Empedocles
https://www.academia.edu/807202/Water_and_bronze_in_the_hands_of_Empedocles_Muse
https://www.academia.edu/9335123/Lions_and_promoi_Final_Phase_of_Exile_for_Empedocles_daimones
https://www.academia.edu/31634535/Empedocles_and_Philodemus_in_PHerc_1570_Col._VI_9-19

And here are a couple posts from the pre-scrubbed days at House of Vines:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150919005542/https://thehouseofvines.com/2014/03/02/he-was-called-the-wind-stayer/

https://web.archive.org/web/20150919005920/https://thehouseofvines.com/2014/09/25/yeah-i-can-see-how-starry-bull-cosmology-might-be-a-little-intimidating-for-folks/

Banjaxed

In my post on the Sortes Empedocleae I said:

Empedokles of Akragas was a Sicilian holy man and wonder-worker who, combining elements of Orphism with indigenous Italian traditions, created a philosophy that anticipated atomic and evolutionary science.

Although instances of this are to be found throughout much of the remaining fragments of his works, one of the most striking is this passage:

Many creatures arose with double faces and double breasts, offspring of oxen with human faces, and again there sprang up children of men with oxen’s heads; creatures, too, in which were mixed some parts from men and some of the nature of women, furnished with sterile members.

Among the cities of Magna Graecia (particularly those within the orbit of Lokroi Epizephyrii) an important hero was venerated, the Olympic athlete Euthymos who was either the son of Astykles or the river-god Kaikinos. While he presumably had a regular human body as a mortal (since he competed in boxing and the pankration) he took on quite a different form posthumously:

Many terracotta plaques featuring three female heads were found in the Grotta, sometimes with Pan and sometimes with Dionysiac symbols. This trio of heads is found in nymphaea, in Persephone shrines, and in tombs elsewhere in the Greek world, but in the Grotta Caruso an unusual combination occurs: sometimes the nymphs appear with a tauromorph, a bull with a human face and horns. The iconography of this figure is consistent with portraits of Acheloos or other river gods, and we have textual evidence that ties the Locrian one to a river. An inscription on one of the Grotta’s plaques names the bull-man as Euthymos, a curious Locrian hero. (Bonnie MacLachlan, Kore as Nymph, not Daughter: Persephone in a Locrian Cave)

Pausanias (Description of Greece 6.7-11) relates the aition for his cult:

Odysseus, so they say, in his wanderings after the capture of Troy was carried down by gales to various cities of Italy and Sicily, and among them he came with his ships to Temesa. Here one of his sailors got drunk and violated a maiden, for which offence he was stoned to death by the natives. Now Odysseus, it is said, cared nothing about his loss and sailed away. But the ghost of the stoned man never ceased killing without distinction the people of Temesa, attacking both old and young, until, when the inhabitants had resolved to flee from Italy for good, the Pythian priestess forbad them to leave Temesa, and ordered them to propitiate the Hero, setting him a sanctuary apart and building a temple, and to give him every year as wife the fairest maiden in Temesa.

So they performed the commands of the god and suffered no more terrors from the ghost. But Euthymos happened to come to Temesa just at the time when the ghost was being propitiated in the usual way; learning what was going on he had a strong desire to enter the temple, and not only to enter it but also to look at the maiden. When he saw her he first felt pity and afterwards love for her. The girl swore to marry him if he saved her, and so Euthymos with his armour on awaited the onslaught of the ghost.

He won the fight, and the Hero was driven out of the land and disappeared, sinking into the depth of the sea. Euthymos had a distinguished wedding, and the inhabitants were freed from the ghost for ever. I heard another story also about Euthymos, how that he reached extreme old age, and escaping again from death departed from among men in another way. Temesa is still inhabited, as I heard from a man who sailed there as a merchant.

This I heard, and I also saw by chance a picture dealing with the subject. It was a copy of an ancient picture. There were a stripling, Sybaris, a river, Calabrus, and a spring, Lyca. Besides, there were a hero-shrine and the city of Temesa, and in the midst was the ghost that Euthymos cast out. Horribly black in color, and exceedingly dreadful in all his appearance, he had a wolf’s skin thrown round him as a garment. The letters on the picture gave his name as Lycas.

Another example of the bull-wolf ritual combat theme I have previously delineated. Which means that while people usefully draw comparisons between Euthymos’ story and Herakles’ contest with Acheloos for the hand of Dionysos’ daughter Deïanira, as described in Sophokles’ Trachiniae:

I had a river as a suitor, Acheloos, who asked my father for my hand in three shapes, coming now as a bull plain to see, now as a slithering, coiling serpent, now bull-faced with a man’s body; and streams of fresh water poured from his shaggy beard. Anticipating such a suitor, I, wretch, prayed continually to die, before I ever drew near such a marriage bed. (9-17)

I think an even more useful comparison is with the story of Theseus and the Minotaur:

And by means of the ingenuity of Daidalos Pasiphae had intercourse with the bull and gave birth to the Minotaur, famed in the myth. This creature, they say, was of double form, the upper parts of the body as far as the shoulders being those of a bull and the remaining parts those of a man. As a place in which to keep this monstrous thing Daidalos, the story goes, built a labyrinth, the passage-ways of which were so winding that those unfamiliar with them had difficulty in making their way out; in this labyrinth the Minotaur was maintained and here it devoured the seven youths and seven maidens which were sent to it from Athens, in recompense for the murder of Minos’ son Androgeus. (Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.77.1)

There is even a tradition where Euthymos disguised himself as the maiden who was to be deflowered by Lycas, much as transvestitism played a role in the Oschophoria celebrating Theseus’ triumphant return and that Ariadne never set foot on Attic soil.

Which is significant since in the Orphic gold lamellae found in Southern Italy the initiate is instructed to proclaim Ἀστέριος ὄνομα. This could just be a suggestive synchronicity except that the epilogue of the Minoan myth took place in Sicily:

Minos, the king of the Cretans, who was at that time the master of the seas, when he learned that Daedalus had fled to Sicily, decided to make a campaign against that island. After preparing a notable naval force he sailed forth from Crete and landed at a place in the territory of Acragas which was called after him Minoa. Here he disembarked his troops and sending messengers to King Cocalus he demanded Daedalus of him for punishment. But Cocalus invited Minos to a conference, and after promising to meet all his demands he brought him to his home as a guest. And when Minos was bathing Cocalus kept him too long in the hot water and thus slew him; the body he gave back to the Cretans, explaining his death on the ground that he had slipped in the bath and by falling into the hot water had met his end. Thereupon the comrades of Minos buried the body of the king with magnificent ceremonies, and constructing a tomb of two storeys, in the part of it which was hidden underground they placed the bones, and in that which lay open to gaze they made a shrine of Aphrodite. Here Minos received honours over many generations, the inhabitants of the region offering sacrifices there in the belief that the shrine was Aphrodite’s; but in more recent times, after the city of the Acragantini had been founded and it became known that the bones had been placed there, it came to pass that the tomb was dismantled and the bones were given back to the Cretans, this being done when Theron was lord over the people of Acragas. (Diodoros Sikeleiotes, Library of History 4.79.1-4)

And not just anywhere in Sicily – but specifically the home of Empedokles. So I think in the fragment I opened with Empedokles is drawing a comparison between the Locrian man-faced bull hero Euthymos and the more widely known bull-faced man Asterios the Minotaur, one with profound implications when you consider Euthymos’ role in the baptismal and eschatogamic mysteries at the Grotta Caruso. (Especially since it comes in a discussion about Aphrodite and Nestis, likely a local name for Persephone.)

All of which is a good example of the bricolage method that characterizes ancient Orphism:

I propose a re-examination of the ancient evidence that takes seriously the model, proposed by Burkert and others, of itinerant religious specialists competing for religious authority among a varying clientele. Rather than looking for a coherent set of sacred texts canonical to people who considered themselves Orphics, texts expressive of doctrines pertaining to sin, salvation, and afterlife, we should look for the products of bricolage, pieced together from widely available traditional material to meet the demand of clients looking for extra-ordinary solutions to their problems. If the texts and rituals are products of bricolage, however, and their creators bricoleurs competing for authority, we cannot expect to find either consistency of texts or doctrines, merely a loose family resemblance between composites of the same traditional elements. A redefinition of ancient Orphism requires a polythetic definition that accommodates the complexities of the ancient contexts rather than the sort of monothetic definition that identifies Orphism by its scriptures and doctrines. Nevertheless, the attempt to force the evidence into this preconceived modern construct has created unnecessary confusions in interpretation, as, e.g., the debate over the Orphic status of the author of the Derveni papyrus shows. (Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, Redefining Ancient Orphism)

And though Empedokles never explicitly references Orpheus a lot of his cosmological speculation agrees with the various Orphic theogonies that have come down to us and he, himself, seems to have engaged in activities similar to the Orpheotelestai. Compare Plato’s account:

But the most astounding of all these arguments concerns what they have to say about the gods and virtue. They say that the gods, too, assign misfortune and a bad life to many good people, and the opposite fate to their opposites. Begging priests and prophets frequent the doors of the rich and persuade them that they possess a god-given power founded on sacrifices and incantations. If the rich person or any of his ancestors has committed an injustice, they can fix it with pleasant things and feasts. Moreover, if he wishes to injure some enemy, then, at little expense, he’ll be able to harm just and unjust alike, for by means of spells and enchantments they can persuade the gods to serve them. And they present a hubbub of books by Musaeus and Orpheus, offspring as they say of Selene and the Muses, according to which they arrange their rites, convincing not only individuals but also cities that liberation and purification from injustice is possible, both during life and after death, by means of sacrifices and enjoyable games to the deceased which free us from the evils of the beyond, whereas something horrible awaits those who have not celebrated sacrifices. (Republic 2.364a–365b)

With what Empedokles describes in the Katharmoi or Purifications:

And thou shalt learn all the drugs that are a defense against ills and old age; since for thee alone will I accomplish all this. Thou shalt arrest the violence of the weariless winds that arise to sweep the earth and waste the fields; and again, when thou so desirest, thou shalt bring back their blasts in return. Thou shalt cause for men a seasonable drought after the dark rains, and again thou shalt change the summer drought for streams that feed the trees as they pour down from the sky. Thou shalt bring back from Hades the life of a dead man … Friends, that inhabit the great town looking down on the yellow rock of Akragas, up by the citadel, busy in goodly works, harbors of honor for the stranger, men unskilled in meanness, all hail. I go about among you divine and no longer mortal, honored among all as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. Straightway, whenever I enter with these in my train, both men and women, into the flourishing towns, is reverence done me they go after me in countless throngs, asking of me what is the way to gain; some desiring oracles, while some, who for many a weary day have been pierced by the grievous pangs of all manner of sickness, beg to hear from me the word of healing.

Empire State of Mind

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Dionysus was called ‘Dithyrambos’, either because it draws attention to the double door of the mouth and makes people blurt out secrets; or because it makes the young go up to doors, or barge into them, i.e. fall against them and dislodge the bolts. (People thought he was destructive of absolutely everything; also that he was a warrior, and first established the practice of the triumph for military victories. The ‘triumph’ got its name from the shouting and lampooning, which is why in military triumphs the crowds use anapaests when they jeer.) The jay is sacred to him as a chattering bird. (Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, Compendium of Greek Theology)

Countdown to the Noumenia: how to pray.

When you pray
be overcome by the power of the words
so that everything else disappears
and it’s just you at your shrine
with the God looking on.

Speak your words like a lover
seducing the divine
and know that they are not empty sounds
but every one of them is full of myths.

When you say hail Bromios,
mean that night when you screamed as loud as you could
and didn’t care what your neighbors thought.
Staphylos,
the skin of the grape between your teeth.
Soter,
the pain and your tears
falling down.

Hold the aromas of his invocation in your mouth
like wafts of wine poured from the bottle,
like a damp forest late at night,
like the smoke of a fine cigarette after sex.

And then let it out.

Give it to him.

Offer everything inside you up to the God
– the good and the bad, the pain and the joy –
in a single blast of euphoric love,
for you are his and all you have belongs to him.

Cry “Io evohe!” like the maenads of old
and mean it with all your heart.

That is how you pray.

Countdown to the Noumenia: ivy chernips.

If you need to make cleansing water (Greek chernips), but aren’t able to light a laurel leaf on fire and dip it into the basin of water (for instance because you’re at an event that doesn’t allow open flame or your roommate is sensitive to smoke and other strong smells or you’re a teenager practicing Hellenismos on the down low or you just want to do things a little differently) you may use the following simple recipe.

For this you will need:

  • Water
  • A bowl
  • An ivy leaf

This form of chernips uses ivy because it was the sacred plant of Dionysos; indeed the god was even called Kissos, “the ivy” for in many respects it was his double. Ivy is a plant that, like Dionysos, has two births. The first birth is when it sends out its shade-seeking shoots with their distinctive leaves. But after the dormant months of winter, when the god himself is rejuvenated it sends out another shoot, one that grows upright and towards the light, thus honoring the return of the vibrant god. When the fire of Zeus’ lightning consumed Semele – with Dionysos still in her womb – it was the cool ivy that surrounded and protected him. When the satyrs were first given wine they were driven mad by its effects. Dionysos placed ivy around them and the plant extinguished the heat of the wine, allowing them to regain their senses – though ivy itself produces a strong poison which has intoxicating properties. The ivy leaf was tattooed on the hand of Dionysian initiates. And Dionysos and his mainades are always pictured wearing crowns of ivy.

Hold the leaf in your palm high above your head, like a tendril seeking the sun, and then slowly bring it down, plunging it into the bowl of water, as when young Dionysos plunged into the sea and the waiting arms of Thetis.

As you are bringing the leaf down feel the power and vitality of the god flow into the receptive basin.

Then lift the bowl to the level of your heart and recite Orphic Hymn 47 to Perikionios (who is twined around the pillar) as follows:

I call upon Bakchos Perikionios, giver of wine,
who enveloped all of Kadmos’ house
and with his might checked and calmed the heaving earth
when the blazing thunderbolt and the raging gale stirred all the land.
Then everyone’s bonds sprang loose.
Blessed reveler, come with joyous heart!

And then carry the bowl around your ritual space, using the leaf of ivy to sprinkle the soothing and protective water as you repeat these lines from the Orations of Aelius Aristides:

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

Envision the drops of water cleansing whatever they touch and neutralizing any harmful effects through the power of Dionysos and feel it spread out until the whole space is covered in green, throbbing vegetation.

Countdown to the Noumenia: my favorite cleansing chant.

Aelius Aristides was 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 sites, 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 read him.)

The Orations are less autobiographical; they’re rhetorical exercises praising cities and institutions and salutary hymns in honor of various deities. The passage we use in the Starry Bull tradition – II.331k – comes from an Oration to Dionysos written on the occasion of his 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, by wrath or by fortune – that cannot be released by [the Lord] Dionysos.