Vínland History X

Here is a documentary clip about Thomas Morton that Tetra posted with the following commentary:

Here’s an interesting low-budget film on Thomas Morton and his prosperous Bacchic colony that flourished right here in Massachusetts until those Puritan bastards decided to make a nuisance of themselves yet again. It’s a shame the education system of the United States doesn’t teach about this wonderful man who embodied the American spirit of camaraderie and freedom more than dour Protestant rejects ever could.

Couldn’t agree more.

It’s especially cool to see what Merrymount looks like today.

And note that Morton wasn’t the only early American Dionysian. There was also Ephraim Lyon who in 1820 founded the Church of Bacchus in Eastford, Connecticut as well as his contemporary John Chapman, better known to history as “Johnny Appleseed.”

Hail Father Freedom!

mortons-maypole

Read something interesting this morning by Anthony Comegna:

In 1627, Thomas Morton and the residents, friends, and allies of Merrymount gathered together for a celebration of life and leisure. The settlement was a bustling little burgh, pleasantly situated on the fringes of Puritan Massachusetts Bay. Having prior felled one of New England’s many mighty pines, the revelers marked their New World holy day by building a grand Maypole. In a very conscious imitation of the ancient, pagan world, the crowd decked their construction in garlands and intertwined ribbons, topping the whole with a formidable set of antlers. Morton constructed what historian Peter Linebaugh claims were “the first lyric verses penned in America,” and he nailed the infamous (and excerpted) “Bacchanalian song” to the Maypole itself, in proud defiance of the Puritan norms prevailing elsewhere in Massachusetts.

In Merrymount, Native Americans and English lived alongside one another peacefully, they traded, they enjoyed mutual and consensual romantic and sexual relationships, and they intermixed philosophies and perspectives in convivial atmospheres like the Mayday festival. The Puritans viewed all of the above with nothing short of horror and contempt. Where the Merrymounters saw Natives as brothers and sisters, the Puritans saw Satan’s minions inhabiting the darkest corners of their New Israel. They called the Maypole “an Idoll,” and the free settlement “Mount Dagon.” As Linebaugh notes, in its short life, Merrymount had become “a refuge for Indians, the discontented, gay people, runaway servants, and what [Governor Bradford] called ‘all the scume of the countrie.’” Convinced that the free settlers and Mayday revelers were devils in human skins, Miles Standish and a Puritan contingent destroyed the settlement with fire, and the Maypole got the axe.

Bolded for emphasis.

That’s right. What may have been the first lyric verses penned in America were in honor of Dionysos!

That makes my heart all warm and tingly. 

You can find more, including excerpts from Morton’s New English Canaan, here.

Happy Thomas Morton day!

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From the Wikipedia article on Thomas Morton

Morton’s religious beliefs were strongly condemned by the Puritans of the nearby Plymouth Colony as little more than a thinly disguised form of heathenism, and they suspected him of “going native”. Scandalous rumours spread of debauchery at Merrymount, which they claimed included immoral sexual liaisons with native women during what amounted to drunken orgies in honour of Bacchus and Aphrodite, or as the Puritan Governor William Bradford wrote in his History of Plymouth Plantation, “They … set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women for their consorts, dancing and frisking together (like so many fairies, or furies rather) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddess Flora, or ye beastly practices of ye mad Bacchanalians.”

Morton had transplanted traditional West Country May Day customs to the colony, and combined them with fashionable classical myth, couched according to his own libertine tastes and fueled by the enthusiasm of his newly freed fellow colonists. On a practical level the annual May Day festival was not only a reward for his hardworking colonists but also a joint celebration with the Native Tribes who also marked the day, and a chance for the mostly male colonists to find brides amongst the native population. Puritan ire was no doubt also fueled by the fact that Merrymount was the fastest-growing colony in New England and rapidly becoming the most prosperous, both as an agricultural producer and in the fur trade, in which the Plymouth Colony was trying to build a monopoly.

The Puritan account of this was very different, regarding the colony as a decadent nest of good-for-nothings that annually attracted “all the scum of the country” to the area, or as Peter Lamborn Wilson more romantically puts it, “a Comus-crew of disaffected fur traders, antinomians, loose women, Indians and bon-vivants”. The second 1628 Mayday, “Revels of New Canaan”, inspired by “Cupid’s mother” — with its “pagan odes” to Neptune and Triton (as well as Venus and her lustful children, Cupid, Hymen and Priapus), its drinking song, and its erection of a huge 80-foot (24 m) Maypole, topped with deer antlers — that proved too much for the “Princes of Limbo”, as Morton referred to his Puritan neighbours.

The Plymouth militia under Myles Standish took the town the following June with little resistance, chopped down the Maypole and arrested Morton for “supplying guns to the Indians”. He was put in stocks in Plymouth, given a trial and finally marooned on the deserted Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, until an “English ship could take him home”, as he was believed too well connected to be imprisoned or executed (as later became the penalty for blasphemy in the colony). He was essentially left to starve on the island, but was supplied with food by friendly natives from the mainland, who were said to be bemused by the events, and he eventually gained enough strength to escape to England under his own volition.

The Merrymount community survived without Morton for another year, but was renamed Mount Dagon by the Puritans, after the Semitic sea god, and they pledged to make it a place of woe. During the severe winter famine of 1629 residents of New Salem under John Endecott raided Mount Dagon’s plentiful corn supplies and destroyed what was left of the Maypole, denouncing it as a pagan idol and calling it the “Calf of Horeb”. Morton returned to the colony soon after and, after finding that most of the inhabitants had been scattered, was rearrested, again put on trial and banished from the colonies. The following year the colony of Mount Dagon was burned to the ground and Morton shipped back to England.

seeds of hope

Two posts from my wonderful wife you should read.

First up, Galina shares what it’s like living with chronic pain.

And then there’s an update on our household’s effort to transform our land. I’m really proud and excited about how this is coming together. 

To Pan the Deliverer

Hail Great God Pan, half beast and half man,
drive this pestilence back
with your dancing cloven hooves,
you who sport in the hills,
and carefully watch over our flocks
except during those couple afternoon hours
when you’re napping
or rolling around in a dark, damp cave
with some bosomy Nymph
or apple-bottomed country lad.
Any who have disturbed your slumber
or crossed your path when you’re out hunting by moonlight,
know how terrifying and merciless you can be;
what hope does this flu born of bat-munching have
of withstanding your might, O son of Hermes
and the most excellent weaver Penelope,
you who won the glory of your name
when you marched with Bakchos beyond Bactria
and slaughtered all his foes on the battlefield,
their numbers vastly outstripping all those
this uppity virus has sent coughing and choking to Hell.
(And that’s even with the government’s heavily inflated numbers!)
Oh Hornéd Deliverer, wielder of the net and crook,
with eyes of fire and a laugh that chills,
when you walk among the districts Pan,
this epidemic will tuck tail and run
back across the far sea where it came from,
never to trouble our fair shores or doughty people again.

To Columbia in tatters

Oh Columbia, Goddess of this wine-rich land, have mercy on us,
you who inspired the weak and scattered colonies to throw off
the yoke of British tyranny because the bastards proposed
a three per cent tax increase on tea, and forged from the ashy remnants
one of the mightiest nations Earth has ever known,
breathing sweet concord upon our founding Fathers
that they might draft an eminently wise, just, humane and stabilizing
set of documents to guide our youthful polity
in avoiding the excesses and errors of old Europe
who sent their best across the perilous seas
in search of wealth, liberty, opportunity
and everything else required to create a happy life
for themselves and those who would come after.
Oh Columbia, Goddess of this land where all men have equal standing
before the law, and wealthy women too, forgive the fool and coward
who would trade these precious gifts of yours for the illusion of safety
because the sophist, the politician, and the quack doctor
have pumped their brains so full of fear that they piss themselves
when someone near goes “achoo!”
Oh Columbia, who has sent her brave sons and daughters out
to fight the Nazi, Commie and Islamofascist,
turn your gaze from those now who are begging
the tech companies to surveil them,

who long to lick the jackboots of the cop
they were protesting just months before,

and who will eagerly snitch on their neighbors for the greater good,
all the while seeing no irony in calling themselves
proud and decent Americans.

To Apollon who smashes the crown

Hail to you indomitable Archer God
whose flaming arrows never miss their mark,
Healer who comes on the swift black wing of ravens,
Leader of the wolf-pack that hunts stealthily by Night
Ie ie Paian, Lord Apollon who smashes the crown.
Once you guided the long-haired Ionians beyond
even Alexandria Eschate, to the wastes of Serike
and its hundred kingdoms, where this strong and doughty
people distinguished themselves in the arts of Enyalios,
in the production of fine grape-wine and the breeding
of horses who ran like the winds, and just as tirelessly
Ie ie Paian, Lord Apollon who smashes the crown.
As you then protected them, I pray, protect our people today
dispensing blessings of wisdom, fortitude and immunity
so that neither the virus nor the moronic measures of the ruling class
can do our nation any more harm than they have already
Ie ie Paian, Lord Apollon who smashes the crown.