Tips for celebrating Kybernesia

1. Have the whole group practice the chants while you’re getting ready; if you need to write the parts Dionysos and Akoites will be reciting out on cards do so, but it’s best if recited from the heart, even if it’s less perfect and lines get altered.

2. As long as there are no conflicting dietary restrictions an Italian seafood feast would be appropriate for this festival – assuming it’s dolphin-free, of course.

3. One can also make cookies in the shapes of ships, pirates, marine life, etc.

4. Because this is also Akoites’ day it is a time of increased psychic clarity, so experiment and see what you’re capable of. You may want to have costumes – even a cape or different kind of crown – to represent the participants chosen to perform the roles of Dionysos and Akoites. Possession is a possibility, so have a competent ground crew in place just in case.

5. This is an especially auspicious time to perform initiations.

Recitation for Kybernesia

Homeric Hymn 7. To Dionysos

ἀμφὶ Διώνυσον, Σεμέλης ἐρικυδέος υἱόν,
μνήσομαι, ὡς ἐφάνη παρὰ θῖν᾽ ἁλὸς ἀτρυγέτοιο
ἀκτῇ ἔπι προβλῆτι νεηνίῃ ἀνδρὶ ἐοικώς,
πρωθήβῃ: καλαὶ δὲ περισσείοντο ἔθειραι,
κυάνεαι, φᾶρος δὲ περὶ στιβαροῖς ἔχεν ὤμοις
πορφύρεον: τάχα δ᾽ ἄνδρες ἐυσσέλμου ἀπὸ νηὸς
ληισταὶ προγένοντο θοῶς ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον,
Τυρσηνοί: τοὺς δ᾽ ἦγε κακὸς μόρος: οἳ δὲ ἰδόντες
νεῦσαν ἐς ἀλλήλους, τάχα δ᾽ ἔκθορον. αἶψα δ᾽ ἑλόντες
εἷσαν ἐπὶ σφετέρης νηὸς κεχαρημένοι ἦτορ.
υἱὸν γάρ μιν ἔφαντο διοτρεφέων βασιλήων
εἶναι καὶ δεσμοῖς ἔθελον δεῖν ἀργαλέοισι.
τὸν δ᾽ οὐκ ἴσχανε δεσμά, λύγοι δ᾽ ἀπὸ τηλόσε πῖπτον
χειρῶν ἠδὲ ποδῶν: ὃ δὲ μειδιάων ἐκάθητο
ὄμμασι κυανέοισι: κυβερνήτης δὲ νοήσας
αὐτίκα οἷς ἑτάροισιν ἐκέκλετο φώνησέν τε:
δαιμόνιοι, τίνα τόνδε θεὸν δεσμεύεθ᾽ ἑλόντες,
καρτερόν; οὐδὲ φέρειν δύναταί μιν νηῦς εὐεργής.
ἢ γὰρ Ζεὺς ὅδε γ᾽ ἐστὶν ἢ ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων
ἠὲ Ποσειδάων: ἐπεὶ οὐ θνητοῖσι βροτοῖσιν
εἴκελος, ἀλλὰ θεοῖς, οἳ Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσιν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγετ᾽, αὐτὸν ἀφῶμεν ἐπ᾽ ἠπείροιο μελαίνης
αὐτίκα: μηδ᾽ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἰάλλετε, μή τι χολωθεὶς
ὄρσῃ ἔπ᾽ ἀργαλέους τ᾽ ἀνέμους καὶ λαίλαπα πολλήν.
Ὣς φάτο: τὸν δ᾽ ἀρχὸς στυγερῷ ἠνίπαπε μύθῳ:

δαιμόνι᾽, οὖρον ὅρα, ἅμα δ᾽ ἱστίον ἕλκεο νηὸς
σύμπανθ᾽ ὅπλα λαβών: ὅδε δ᾽ αὖτ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει.
ἔλπομαι, ἢ Αἴγυπτον ἀφίξεται ἢ ὅ γε Κύπρον
ἢ ἐς Ὑπερβορέους ἢ ἑκαστέρω: ἐς δὲ τελευτὴν
ἔκ ποτ᾽ ἐρεῖ αὐτοῦ τε φίλους καὶ κτήματα πάντα
οὕς τε κασιγνήτους, ἐπεὶ ἡμῖν ἔμβαλε δαίμων.

ὣς εἰπὼν ἱστόν τε καὶ ἱστίον ἕλκετο νηός.
ἔμπνευσεν δ᾽ ἄνεμος μέσον ἱστίον: ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὅπλα
καττάνυσαν: τάχα δέ σφιν ἐφαίνετο θαυματὰ ἔργα.
οἶνος μὲν πρώτιστα θοὴν ἀνὰ νῆα μέλαιναν
ἡδύποτος κελάρυζ᾽ εὐώδης, ὤρνυτο δ᾽ ὀδμὴ
ἀμβροσίη: ναύτας δὲ τάφος λάβε πάντας ἰδόντας.
αὐτίκα δ᾽ ἀκρότατον παρὰ ἱστίον ἐξετανύσθη
ἄμπελος ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα, κατεκρημνῶντο δὲ πολλοὶ
βότρυες: ἀμφ᾽ ἱστὸν δὲ μέλας εἱλίσσετο κισσός,
ἄνθεσι τηλεθάων, χαρίεις δ᾽ ἐπὶ καρπὸς ὀρώρει:
πάντες δὲ σκαλμοὶ στεφάνους ἔχον: οἳ δὲ ἰδόντες,
νῆ᾽ ἤδη τότ᾽ ἔπειτα κυβερνήτην ἐκέλευον
γῇ πελάαν: ὃ δ᾽ ἄρα σφι λέων γένετ᾽ ἔνδοθι νηὸς
δεινὸς ἐπ᾽ ἀκροτάτης, μέγα δ᾽ ἔβραχεν, ἐν δ᾽ ἄρα μέσσῃ
ἄρκτον ἐποίησεν λασιαύχενα, σήματα φαίνων:
ἂν δ᾽ ἔστη μεμαυῖα: λέων δ᾽ ἐπὶ σέλματος ἄκρου
δεινὸν ὑπόδρα ἰδών: οἳ δ᾽ ἐς πρύμνην ἐφόβηθεν,
ἀμφὶ κυβερνήτην δὲ σαόφρονα θυμὸν ἔχοντα
ἔσταν ἄρ᾽ ἐκπληγέντες: ὃ δ᾽ ἐξαπίνης ἐπορούσας
ἀρχὸν ἕλ᾽, οἳ δὲ θύραζε κακὸν μόρον ἐξαλύοντες
πάντες ὁμῶς πήδησαν, ἐπεὶ ἴδον, εἰς ἅλα δῖαν,
δελφῖνες δ᾽ ἐγένοντο: κυβερνήτην δ᾽ ἐλεήσας
ἔσχεθε καί μιν ἔθηκε πανόλβιον εἶπέ τε μῦθον:
θάρσει, †δῖε κάτωρ†, τῷ ἐμῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ:
εἰμὶ δ᾽ ἐγὼ Διόνυσος ἐρίβρομος, ὃν τέκε μήτηρ
Καδμηὶς Σεμέλη Διὸς ἐν φιλότητι μιγεῖσα.
χαῖρε, τέκος Σεμέλης εὐώπιδος: οὐδέ πη ἔστι
σεῖό γε ληθόμενον γλυκερὴν κοσμῆσαι ἀοιδήν.

I will tell of Dionysos, the son of glorious Semele, how he appeared on a jutting headland by the shore of the fruitless sea, seeming like a stripling in the first flush of manhood: his rich, dark hair was waving about him, and on his strong shoulders he wore a purple robe. Presently there came swiftly over the sparkling sea Tyrsenian pirates on a well-decked ship —a miserable doom led them on. When they saw him they made signs to one another and sprang out quickly, and seizing him straightway put him on board their ship exultingly; for they thought him the son of heaven-nurtured kings. They sought to bind him with rude bonds, but the bonds would not hold him, and the withes fell far away from his hands and feet: and he sat with a smile in his dark eyes. Then the helmsman understood all and cried out at once to his fellows and said:

“Madmen! what God is this whom you have taken and bind, strong that he is? Not even the well-built ship can carry him. Surely this is either Zeus or Apollo who has the silver bow, or Poseidon, for he looks not like mortal men but like the Gods who dwell on Olympus. Come, then, let us set him free upon the dark shore at once: do not lay hands on him, lest he grow angry and stir up dangerous winds and heavy squalls.”

So said he: but the master chid him with taunting words: “Madman, mark the wind and help hoist sail on the ship: catch all the sheets. As for this fellow we men will see to him: I reckon he is bound for Egypt or for Cyprus or to the Hyperboreans or further still. But in the end he will speak out and tell us his friends and all his wealth and his brothers, now that providence has thrown him in our way.”

When he had said this, he had mast and sail hoisted on the ship, and the wind filled the sail and the crew hauled taut the sheets on either side. But soon strange things were seen among them. First of all sweet, fragrant wine ran streaming throughout all the black ship and a heavenly smell arose, so that all the seamen were seized with amazement when they saw it. And all at once a vine spread out both ways along the top of the sail with many clusters hanging down from it, and a dark ivy-plant twined about the mast, blossoming with flowers, and with rich berries growing on it; and all the thole-pins were covered with garlands. When the pirates saw all this, then at last they bade the helmsman to put the ship to land. But the God changed into a dreadful lion there on the ship, in the bows, and roared loudly: amidships also he showed his wonders and created a shaggy bear which stood up ravening, while on the forepeak was the lion glaring fiercely with scowling brows. And so the sailors fled into the stern and crowded bemused about the right-minded helmsman, until suddenly the lion sprang upon the master and seized him; and when the sailors saw it they leapt out overboard one and all into the bright sea, escaping from a miserable fate, and were changed into dolphins. But on the helmsman Dionysos had mercy and held him back and made him altogether happy, saying to him:

“Take courage, good…; you have found favour with my heart. I am loud-crying Dionysos whom Cadmus’ daughter Semele bare of union with Zeus.”

Hail, child of fair-faced Semele! He who forgets you can in no wise order sweet song.


Ritual outline for Kybernesia

The centerpiece of the shrine is a boat or cornucopia into which participants may place offerings of local fruit and vegetables. Also on the shrine should be a mask, beeswax candles, plates for other offerings and a bowl for libations. The shrine should be set up on a red cloth to represent the “wine-dark sea.” Feel free to add other nautical imagery.

Once the shrine is set up the participants should file outside to play the Dolphin Game in order to determine who will fulfil the roles of “Dionysos” and “Akoites.” For this game you’ll need three to thirteen participants and a wide, open space to run around in.

Using lots, one member of the group is chosen to be Dionysos and the remainder are Tyrrhenian Pirates. Dionysos will count to 27 while the Pirates scatter and, if possible, hide themselves – then he will give chase.

If a Pirate is tagged by Dionysos they must stop and remain in place, imitating a Dolphin – unless he tags them a second time, at which point they are transformed into Bears and may tag other players, turning them into Dolphins. (A Bear, however, cannot make another Bear!)

The last Pirate remaining is designated Akoites, and it will be that person’s primary responsibility to go around and make sure that everyone’s cup stays full throughout the evening.

Dionysos enters before the others and collects the flower-crowns.

Note: have more than enough flower-crowns on hand in case something happens. If you don’t already have them prepared have members make them while you wait for everyone to arrive.

Before leading everyone inside, Akoites goes over the following chant with them a couple times:

Come on your bull’s foot
Come on your panther’s paw
Come on your snake’s belly
Dionysos, come!
Come Dithyrambos
Come to us Bakcheios
Come to us Lusios
Dionysos, come!

And then everyone processes inside chanting it as Dionysos crowns them and they stand or take their seats around the shrine.

Paper cups on which Dionysian epithets have been inscribed are handed out, with Akoites following close behind and filling them with wine. The epithet one receives is important, indicating a particular aspect of the God one should work with over the coming months.

Dionysos then leads the group in a call and response chant:

mad hunter
bond breaker
bridge burner
Opener of the Door!
Opener of the Door!
Opener of the Door!

He speaks the epithets while the group responds “bull-roarer” until the last line where everyone shouts “Opener of the Door” together. (Participants should take a drink of wine before calling out each line.)

Then Dionysos pours a bottle of wine in the libation bowl, while Akoites shouts “He is come! He is among us! Drink to him! Drink to feel him!” or words to that effect.

Dionysos and Akoites may or may not do the Recitation at this time.

When everyone’s ready the participants take turns hailing the God and telling the story of how they first met him.

Next the group hails Dionysos and shares a time when the God pleasantly surprised them.

Finally, participants may choose to speak something before the group, whether an affirmation, accomplishment or oath they want to undertake.

At this point the ritual transitions to freeform ecstatic celebration and revelry with Akoites and the Spirits of the Retinue until things wind down.

It’s a good time to play with Rhombos or Esoptron.

It is also an auspicious time for divination or direct trance-possession oracles.

On the Kybernesia

This festival (which takes its name from κυβερνήτης, Greek for steersman or helmsman) honors Akoites who recognized the divinity in Dionysos and stood witness to the terrible miracles that followed the Stranger-God’s dramatic self-revelation.

As the story goes:

When the Tyrrhenians, later called Tuscans, were on a piratical expedition, Father Liber, then a youth, came on their ship and asked them to take him to Naxos. When they had taken him on and wished to debauch him because of his beauty, Acoetes, the pilot, restrained them, and suffered at their hands. Liber, seeing that their purpose remained the same, changed the oars to thyrsi, the sails to vine-leaves, the ropes to ivy; then lions and panthers leapt out. When they saw them, in fear they cast themselves into the sea, and even in the sea he changed them to a sort of beast. For whoever leaped overboard was changed into dolphin shape, and from this dolphins are called Tyrrhenians, and the sea Tyrrhenian. They were twelve in number with the following names: Aethalides, Medon, Lycabas, Libys, Opheltes, Melas, Alcimedon, Epopeus, Dictys, Simon, Acoetes. The last was the pilot, whom Liber saved out of kindness. (Hyginus, Fabulae 134)

According to Ovid this was just the beginning for the helmsman, whom he has become a mendicant prophet of Bacchus attempting to install the cult at Thebes and running up against the blind and stubborn will of the city’s king – and the God’s cousin – Pentheus:

‘We have only listened to this winding tale’, said Pentheus, ‘so that our anger might spend its strength in delay. You, attendants, remove this man, quickly, and let his body be tortured in greatest anguish, and send him down to Stygian night!’ Acoetes, the Tyrrhenian, was dragged out, straightaway, and shut in a deep dungeon. But while the instruments of cruelty, the irons and the fire, were being prepared to kill him as had been ordered, the doors flew open by themselves, the chains loosening without any effort, or so tradition holds. (Metamorphoses 3.700 ff)

In many respects Akoites and Pentheus are doubles – each is in a position to hear the call of the God Dionysos, but one sees through mad illusion and embraces what is offered him while the other resists and is torn apart by it.

Akoites is also the prototype of the itinerant Bacchic Orphic religious specialists who peddled cures, charms and initiations such as the anonymous figure credited with introducing the Bacchanalia to Rome:

A low-born Greek went into Etruria first of all, but did not bring with him any of the numerous arts which that most accomplished of all nations has introduced amongst us for the cultivation of mind and body. He was a hedge-priest and wizard, not one of those who imbue men’s minds with error by professing to teach their superstitions openly for money, but a hierophant of secret nocturnal mysteries. At first these were divulged to only a few; then they began to spread amongst both men and women, and the attractions of wine and feasting increased the number of his followers. When they were heated with wine and the nightly commingling of men and women, those of tender age with their seniors, had extinguished all sense of modesty, debaucheries of every kind commenced; each had pleasures at hand to satisfy the lust he was most prone to. Nor was the mischief confined to the promiscuous intercourse of men and women; false witness, the forging of seals and testaments, and false informations, all proceeded from the same source, as also poisonings and murders of families where the bodies could not even be found for burial. Many crimes were committed by treachery; most by violence, which was kept secret, because the cries of those who were being violated or murdered could not be heard owing to the noise of drums and cymbals. (Livy, History of Rome 39.8-12 )

It is significant that the “low-born Greek” comes to Rome from Etruria, and not just because of Akoites’ own Tuscan background – for Dionysos’ cult had flourished in Northern Italy for centuries by that point, being adopted by the Etruscans, Oscans, Samnites, and other Italiote tribes shortly after Greek colonization in the 8th through 6th centuries BCE. One of the most prosperous and populous groups in the area were called the Oinotrians “people of the land of wine.”

Indeed it’s possible that Dionysos had already been here before the arrival of the Greeks, either because he was indigenous to Italy or because the Korybantes or Kabeiroi had transplanted him back in mythic time:

If you wish to inspect the orgies of the Korybantes, then know that, having killed their third brother, they covered the head of the dead body with a purple cloth, crowned it, and carrying it on the point of a spear, buried it under the roots of Olympos. These mysteries are, in short, murders and funerals. And the priests of these rites, who are called kings of the sacred rites by those whose business it is to name them, give additional strangeness to the tragic occurrence, by forbidding parsley with the roots from being placed on the table, for they think that parsley grew from the Corybantic blood that flowed forth; just as the women, in celebrating the Thesmophoria, abstain from eating the seeds of the pomegranate which have fallen on the ground, from the idea that pomegranates sprang from the drops of the blood of Dionysos. Those Korybantes also they call Kabiric; and the ceremony itself they announce as the Kabiric mystery. For those two identical fratricides, having abstracted the box in which the phallos of Bacchus was deposited, took it to Etruria–dealers in honourable wares truly. They lived there as exiles, employing themselves in communicating the precious teaching of their superstition, and presenting phallic symbols and the box for the Tyrrhenians to worship. And some will have it, not improbably, that for this reason Dionysos was called Attis, because he was mutilated. And what is surprising at the Tyrrhenians, who were barbarians, being thus initiated into these foul indignities, when among the Athenians, and in the whole of Greece–I blush to say it–the shameful legend about Demeter holds its ground? (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks Book Two)

Which, curiously enough, leads back to Akoites and the Dolphins – a theme often explored in Italian and Etruscan art. After providing an exhaustive catalogue of vases and cups decorated with this motif – rare in other parts of the Greek world – Dimitris Paleothodoros hazards a guess as to what it all means:

It has been noted recently that the appearance of dolphins leaping into the sea on Etruscan wall-paintings and mirrors of the late archaic period does not have a decorative function, but betrays an eschatological message. Since the tomb is regarded as a place of mediation between the world of the living and the world of the dead, the idea of putting friezes of dolphins leaping into the sea in the lower part of the tomb may have served as a point of juncture between the two worlds. The act of leaping into the sea is regarded in funerary symbolism as an act of passage between the world of the living into the world of the dead. The equation of the banquet with the Dionysiac afterlife is a very well known feature in the funerary iconography in Etruria and Southern Italy, where most of the documents illustrating the myth of the Tyrrhenian pirates has been found. So it seems justified to assume that the myth was regarded as a metaphor for death and rebirth. (Dionysos and the Tyrrhenian Pirates)

Making the myth especially significant for those of us who work with the Toys, particularly Esoptron.

Around midnight

louvre-buste-femme -ariane

Friedrich Nietzsche, Klage der Ariadne from Dionysos-Dithyramben

Wer wärmt mich, wer liebt mich noch?
   Gebt heisse Hände!
   gebt Herzens-Kohlenbecken!
Hingestreckt, schaudernd,
Halbtodtem gleich, dem man die Füsse wärmt,
geschüttelt ach! von unbekannten Fiebern,
zitternd vor spitzen eisigen Frostpfeilen,
   von dir gejagt, Gedanke!
Unnennbarer! Verhüllter! Entsetzlicher!
   Du Jäger hinter Wolken!
Darnieder geblitzt von dir,
du höhnisch Auge, das mich aus Dunklem anblickt!
   So liege ich,
biege mich, winde mich, gequält
von allen ewigen Martern,
von dir, grausamster Jäger,
du unbekannter—Gott …

Triff tiefer!
Triff Ein Mal noch!
Zerstich, zerbrich dies Herz!
Was soll dies Martern
mit zähnestumpfen Pfeilen?
Was blickst du wieder
der Menschen-Qual nicht müde,
mit schadenfrohen Götter-Blitz-Augen?
Nicht tödten willst du,
nur martern, martern?
Wozu—mich martern,
du schadenfroher unbekannter Gott?

Du schleichst heran
bei solcher Mitternacht? …
Was willst du?
Du drängst mich, drückst mich,
Ha! schon viel zu nahe!
Du hörst mich athmen,
du behorchst mein Herz,
du Eifersüchtiger!
   — worauf doch eifersüchtig?
Weg! Weg!
wozu die Leiter?
willst du hinein,
ins Herz, einsteigen,
in meine heimlichsten
Gedanken einsteigen?
Schamloser! Unbekannter! Dieb!
Was willst du dir erstehlen?
Was willst du dir erhorchen?
was willst du dir erfoltern,
du Folterer!
Oder soll ich, dem Hunde gleich,
vor dir mich wälzen?
Hingebend, begeistert ausser mir
dir Liebe—zuwedeln?
Stich weiter!
Grausamster Stachel!
Kein Hund—dein Wild nur bin ich,
grausamster Jäger!
deine stolzeste Gefangne,
du Räuber hinter Wolken …
Sprich endlich!
Du Blitz-Verhüllter! Unbekannter! sprich!
Was willst du, Wegelagerer, von—mir? …

Was willst du Lösegelds?
Verlange Viel—das räth mein Stolz!
und rede kurz—das räth mein andrer Stolz!

Mich—willst du? mich?
mich—ganz? …

Und marterst mich, Narr, der du bist,
zermarterst meinen Stolz?
Gieb Liebe mir—wer wärmt mich noch?
   wer liebt mich noch?
gieb heisse Hände,
gieb Herzens-Kohlenbecken,
gieb mir, der Einsamsten,
nach Feinden selber,
nach Feinden schmachten lehrt,
gieb, ja ergieb
grausamster Feind,
mir—dich! …

Da floh er selber,
mein einziger Genoss,
mein grosser Feind,
mein Unbekannter,
mein Henker-Gott! …

komm zurück!
Mit allen deinen Martern!
All meine Thränen laufen
zu dir den Lauf
und meine letzte Herzensflamme
dir glüht sie auf.
Oh komm zurück,
mein unbekannter Gott! mein Schmerz
   mein letztes Glück! …

Ein Blitz. Dionysos wird in smaragdener Schönheit sichtbar.


Sei klug, Ariadne! …
Du hast kleine Ohren, du hast meine Ohren:
steck ein kluges Wort hinein! —
Muss man sich nicht erst hassen, wenn man sich lieben soll? …
Ich bin dein Labyrinth …

Ariadne’s Lament from The Dionysos Dithyrambs

Who will warm me, who loves me still?
   Give warm hands!
   Give the heart’s brazier!
Prone, shuddering
Like one half dead, whose feet are warmed;
Shaken, alas! by unknown fevers,
Trembling at pointed arrows of glacial frost,
   Hunted by you, Thought!
Nameless! Cloaked! Horrid!
   You hunter behind clouds!
Struck down by your lightning,
Your scornful eye, glaring at me out of the dark!
   Thus I lie,
Writhing, twisted, tormented
By all the eternal afflictions,
By you, cruelest hunter,
You unknown—God

Strike deeper!
Strike one more time!
Stab, break this heart!
Why all this affliction
With blunt-toothed arrows?
How can you gaze evermore,
Unweary of human agony,
With the spiteful lightning eyes of Gods?
You do not wish to kill,
Only to torment, torment?
Why torment—me,
You spiteful unknown God?

You creep closer
Around midnight? …
What do you want?
You push me, press upon me,
Ah, already much too close!
You hear me breathing,
You eavesdrop on my heart,
Most jealous one! —
   What are you jealous of anyway?
Away! Away!
What’s the ladder for?
Do you want inside,
Would you get into my heart,
And enter
My most secret thoughts?
Shameless one! Unknown! Thief!
What do you wish to steal for yourself?
What do you wish to hear for yourself?
What will you gain by torture,
You torturer!
Or am I, like a dog,
To wallow before you?
Devoted, eager due to my
Love for you—fawning over you?
In vain!
It stabs again!
Cruelest sting!
I am not your dog, only your prey,
Cruelest hunter!
Your proudest prisoner,
You robber behind clouds …
Speak finally!
You, cloaked by lightning! Unknown! Speak!
What do you want, highwayman, from—me?…

A ransom?
What do you want for ransom?
Demand much—so advises my pride!
And talk little—my pride advises as well!

Me?—you want me?
Me—all of me? …

And tormenting me, fool that you are,
You wrack my pride?
Give me love—who warms me still?
   Who loves me still?
Give warm hands,
Give the heart’s brazier,
Give me, the loneliest one,
Ice, alas! whom ice sevenfold
Has taught to yearn for enemies,
Even for my enemies
Give, yes, surrender to me,
Cruelest enemy —

He has fled,
My only companion,
My splendid enemy,
My unknown,
My executioner-God! …

Come back!
With all your afflictions!
All my tears gush forth
To you they stream
And the last flames of my heart
Glow for you.
Oh, come back,
My unknown God! my pain!
   My ultimate happiness! ….

A lightening bolt. Dionysus becomes visible in emerald beauty.


Be clever, Ariadne! …
You have little ears; you have my ears:
Put a clever word in them! —
Must one not first hate oneself, in order to love oneself? …
I am your labyrinth …

Let the Journey into the Unknown begin

Tomorrow is the Noumenia of Lusion, the month of loosening, liberty and deliverance. Dionysos’ oracle for Lusion is:

“If there is a way into the wood there is also a way out of it.”

Our next festival at the House of Vines is going to be on the 28th (12 June, by the vulgar reckoning) and will be the Kybernesia in honor of our great prophet and Bacchic missionary Akoites. 

Everything about him is a mystery

You are a child playing with your friends on a hot summer day. Bored with your usual games you decide to go explore in the woods, a dark and scary place well away from the prying eyes of parents. After wandering through the green maze of the Nymphs for hours you come upon a tree with a corpse hanging from it. Once you get passed the terror and the urge to flee back home you children become fascinated by him. You’ve never been this close to death before. You stand there, holding your breath, staring up at him, fearful that he might suddenly move, but also kind of hoping that he does.

Eventually one of you decides that it’s not right to just leave him hanging there. He climbs the tree, draws out his knife, grabs the rope with a trembling hand and begins sawing through it.

Without warning the last strand snaps and the body falls to the earth and bursts open, releasing putrid stenches into the air. You hardly notice; everybody is staring intently at the knife still held up by the boy. You revere it like a proper object of worship for it certainly has power after coming into contact with the body like that.

It’s getting late and you grudgingly decide to go back before the adults come looking for you. The whole group swears a vow to tell no one of what they’ve seen. The dead man will be your secret so that no one will take him away from you.

Days pass, but he remains all you can think about. Everything about him is a mystery. Who was he? What was his name? Where did he come from? Why was he here? How long had he hung before you found him? Was he murdered or did he die by his own hand? You can’t stand not knowing, so you start to tell stories between chores and late at night, when the children are by themselves, out of earshot of the others. The stories swell with each telling, becoming more elaborate and fanciful and thus more entertaining to contemplate afterwards. Rival traditions emerge among the children, become more solidified through conflict, until the different sides can’t even stand to be in the presence of each other.

You dream one night after a bitter screaming match with your sister that was broken up by your confused and angry mother who beat you and sent you to bed without any supper. (But what does it matter what either of them think? They don’t know anything about the dead man so their opinion is worthless.) You dreamed that you were back in the woods and the body was just like you left it that time only now it was covered in worms and centipedes and spiders and there is a buzzing of flies so loud you fear it’s going to make you deaf. You wake screaming. The dead man is mad at you for how you and your friends have behaved!

The following day you gather everybody together and lead them back into the woods to make amends. What you didn’t notice is that you were being followed. The adults had observed the strange transformation in their children’s behavior, how withdrawn, moody and contentious they’d become of late, and it concerned them. Their worst fears were confirmed and then some when they tracked you to that old ash tree and the fruit it bore.

Horrified, they destroyed the body and brought in mendicant religious experts to perform the ceremonies of purification and ghost-laying that Orpheus invented. They interrogated you, tortured you, tried to get you to deny and forget all that you had seen. They lock you away, forbidding you to have anything to do with your friends until you learn to mimic the behaviors they expect of you. Play nice. Eat all your dinner. Smile. Smile. Smile. And never, ever bring up the dead body again, even to your friends once they let you play together after all of you have been properly re-educated.

Inwardly things were different. You nurtured the memory of that day, secretly but reverently stroking the blade that the boy had been forced to discard and you were able to retrieve from the trash heap. Time passes, but you never forget. And when you are old enough you go to a different village to tell the people there about the dead man, somewhere far away since a prophet is never believed in his own home. You’ve got so many stories to tell about the dead man; you’ve worked out this whole mythic chronology for him and it’s even more real to you than your own history.