“Want your boat, Georgie?”

Okay. I am terribly amused.

I chose the swarthy fellow in the jester’s cap to illustrate this post because I’d always understood Mórychos to be a Dionysian epiklesis from Syracuse meaning “the Dark One” and his sinister expression conveyed all the right notes (sexy, mysterious, slightly menacing and mad, etc.) The clown thing was just icing on the cake.

Well, as it turns out the image was more appropriate than I guessed!

Or icing is more important than it seems!

Morychos, you see, was a proverbial buffoon; people would say, “stupider than Morychos” as in this quip recorded by Zenobios:

You are more stupid than Morychos, who got rid of his furniture and now has to sit outside his house.

He seems to have started off as a 5th century tragedian whom Aristophanes mocked for his gluttony in The Peace; after that the character took on a life of it own.

According to Thomas Horn he’s alive and well today as the Spirit of Mardi Gras:

In Syracuse, Dionysus was known as Dionysus Morychos (“the dark one”) a fiendish creature; roughly equivalent to the biblical Satan, who wore goatskins and dwelt in the reqions of the underworld. In the scholarly book, Dionysus Myth And Cult, Walter F. Otto connected Dionysus with the prince of the underworld. He wrote: “The similarity and relationship which Dionysus has with the prince of the underworld (and this is revealed by a large number of comparisons) is not only confirmed by an authority of the first rank, but he says the two deities are actually the same. Heraclitus says, ‘Hades and Dionysus, for whom they go mad and rage, are one and the same.'”

But the Hebrews considered the magic (witchcraft) of the Bacchae (the female followers of Dionysus) to be the best evidence of Dionysus’ Satanic connection, and, while most of the details are no longer available because of the fact that Dionysus was a mystery god and his rituals were thus revealed to the initiated only, the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel described the “magic bands” (kesatot) of the Bacchae, which, as in the omophagia, were used to capture (magically imprison) the souls of men. We read, “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold I am against your magic bands [kesatot] by which you hunt lives [souls] there as birds, and I will tear them off your arms; and I will let them go, even those lives [souls] whom you hunt as birds” (Ez. 13:20 NAS).

The kesatot was a magic arm band used in connection with a container called the kiste. Wherever the kiste is inscribed on sarcophagi and on Bacchic scenes, it is depicted as a sacred vessel (a soul prison?) with a snake peering through an open lid. How the magic worked and in what way a soul was imprisoned is still a mystery. Pan, the half-man/half-goat god (later relegated to devildom) is sometimes pictured as kicking the lid open and letting the snake (soul?) out. Such loose snakes were then depicted as being enslaved around the limbs, and bound in the hair, of the Bacchae women. The demon Pan, the serpents, the imprisoned souls, and the magic Kesatot and Kiste, were evidently perceived by the prophet Ezekiel as an effort of the Bacchae to mystically imprison the souls of men through magic and sensuality. Also, Pan was beloved of Dionysus for his pandemonium (“all the devils”) which struck panic and/or pleasure in the hearts of men and beasts. Does the same spirit reside over New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, Rio’s Carnival, and Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras? It appears to this writer that an equally tenacious effort on the part of modern Bacchae to embrace the will of evil supernaturalism exists.

It’s funny, I’ve been getting pinged for a while to start working more with the Harlequinade portion of Dionysos’ Retinue, and (once the monotheist lunacy and historical innacuracies/misrepresentations have been filtered out) I’d say this is a pretty strong confirmation and ties things together rather nicely. (Hahaha. Get it? Ties. Kesatot. I slay me.)

Oh, this should make Anthesteria extra fun this year.

Take it away, Crispin:

Reborn in the flame

Philostratos the Elder, Imagines 1. 14
In Naples you may see the following in a painting: Bronte (Thunder), stern of face, and Astrape (Lightning) flashing light from her eyes, and raging fire from heaven that has laid hold of a king’s house, suggest the following tale, if it is one you know. A cloud of fire encompassing Thebes breaks into the dwelling of Kadmos as Zeus comes wooing Semele; and Semele apparently is destroyed, but Dionysos is born, by Zeus, so I believe, in the presence of the fire. And the form of Semele is dimly seen as she goes to the heavens, where the Mousai will hymn her praises : but Dionysos leaps forth as his mother’s womb is rent apart and he makes the flame look dim, so brilliantly does he shine like a radiant star. The flame, dividing, dimly outlines a cave for Dionysos more charming than any in Assyria and Lydia; for sprays of ivy grow luxuriantly about it and clusters of ivy berries and now grape-vines and stalks of thyrsos which spring up from the willing earth, so that some grow in the very fire. We must not be surprised if in honour of Dionysos the Fire is crowned by the Earth, for the Earth will take part with the Fire in the Bacchic revel and will make it possible for the revelers to take wine from springs and to draw milk from clods of earth or from a rock as from living breasts. Listen to Pan, how he seems to be hymning Dionysos on the crests of Kithairon, as he dances an Euian fling. And Kithairon in the form of a man laments the woes soon to occur on his slopes, and he wears an ivy crown aslant on his head–for he accepts the crown most unwillingly–and Megaira causes a fir to shoot up beside him and brings to light a spring of water, in token, I fancy, of the blood of Aktaion and of Pentheus.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 6.155 ff
Zeus changed his face and came, rolling in many a loving coil through the dark to the corner of the maiden’s chamber, and shaking his hairy chaps he lulled to sleep as he crept the eyes of those creatures of his own shape who guarded the door. He licked the girl’s form gently with wooing lips. By this marriage with the heavenly dragon, the womb of Persephone swelled with living fruit, and she bore Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titanes cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Kronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain.

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2.1.6
And we are told that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias, he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother, Arymbas. Well, then, the night before that on which the marriage was consummated, the bride dreamed that there was a peal of thunder and that a thunder-bolt fell upon her womb, and that thereby much fire was kindled, which broke into flames that travelled all about, and then was extinguished.

The Gurôb Papyrus
O Eubouleus, Erikepaios, save me! Phanes!
Hurler of Lightning!
THERE IS ONE DIONYSOS.
Tokens … god through the bosom.
Having drunk … ass cowboy …
Password: up and down to the … and what has been given to you.
Consume it, put it into the basket …
… cone, bull-roarer, knucklebones, mirror.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.30.5
There are some who say that Orpheus met his end after being struck by a thunderbolt sent by the god because of the discourses which he taught in the mysteries to men who had not heard them before.

Herodotos, The Histories 4.79
Skyles conceived a desire to be initiated into the rites of Dionysos Bakcheios; and when he was about to begin the sacred mysteries, he saw the greatest vision. He had in the city of the Borysthenites a spacious house, grand and costly (the same house I just mentioned), all surrounded by sphinxes and griffins worked in white marble; this house was struck by a thunderbolt. And though the house burnt to the ground, Skyles none the less performed the rite to the end.

Plutarch, Life of M. Antonius 60.2
In Patrae, while Antony was staying there, the Heracleium was destroyed by lightning; and at Athens the Dionysos in the Battle of the Giants was dislodged by the winds and carried down into the theatre. Now, Antony associated himself with Heracles in lineage, and with Dionysos in the mode of life which he adopted, as I have said, and he was called the New Dionysos.

Archilochos fr. 120
And I know how to lead off the sprightly dance
of the Lord Dionysos, the dithyramb,
I do it thunderstruck with wine.

Euripides, Cretans fragment 472
Son of the Phoenician princess, child of Tyrian Europa and great Zeus, ruler over hundred-fortressed Crete—here am I, come from the sanctity of temples roofed with cut beam of our native wood, its true joints of cypress welded together with Chalybean axe and cement from the bull. Pure has my life been since the day when I became an initiate of Idaean Zeus. Where midnight Zagreus roves, I rove; I have endured his thunder-cry; fulfilled his red and bleeding feasts; held the Great Mother’s mountain flame; I am set free and named by name a Bakchos of the Mailed Priests. Having all-white garments, I flee the birth of mortals and, not nearing the place of corpses, I guard myself against the eating of ensouled flesh.

Aischylos, Edonoi frag 27
… even the sound that wakes to frenzy. Another, with brass-bound cymbals, raises a clang … the twang shrills; the unseen, unknown, bull-voiced mimes in answer bellow fearfully, while the timbrel’s echo, like that of subterranean thunder, rolls along inspiring a mighty terror.

Gold Tablet from Thurii A1
Pure I come from the pure, Queen of those below the earth,
and Eukles and Eubouleus and the other immortal gods;
For I also claim that I am of your blessed race.
But Fate mastered me and the Thunderer, striking with his lightning.
I flew out of the circle of wearying heavy grief;
I came on with swift feet to the desired crown;
I passed beneath the lap of the Mistress, Queen of the Underworld,
“Happy and most blessed one, a god you shall be instead of a mortal.”
A kid I fell into milk.

PGM IV.1716-1870
I call upon you, author of all creation who spread your own wings over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all things together by your power, firstborn, founder of the universe, golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you carry off every living thing without growing weary of torturing it, rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom men dare beyond what is fitting and take refuge in your light which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torch-carrier, master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine, dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name: AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing, night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA.

Orphic Hymn 47. Perikionios
Incense: Aromatic Herbs

I call upon Bacchos 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.

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks
Athene, to resume our account, having abstracted the heart of Dionysos received the name Pallas from its palpitating (pallein). And the Titans who had torn him limb from limb, setting a cauldron on a tripod, and throwing into it the members of Dionysos, first boiled them down, and then fixing them on spits, “held them over the fire.” But Zeus having smelled the savour of the pieces of flesh that were being cooked assailed the Titans with his thunderbolt, and consigns the members of Dionysos to his son Apollo to be interred. And he–for he did not disobey Zeus–bore the dismembered corpse to Parnassos, and there deposited it.

Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 19
When the Bacchanalian revels were being celebrated at Rome, Aruntius, who had been from birth a water-drinker, set at naught the power of the god. So much so that in a fit of drunkenness he violated his daughter Medullina to insult Liber. But she recognized from a ring his relationship and devised a plan wiser than her years; making her father drunk, and crowning him with garlands, she led him to the altar of Divine Lightning, and there, dissolved in tears, she slew the man who had plotted against her virginity. So Aristeides in the third book of his Italian History.

engendered by lightning

De Martino and others tend to dismiss the Christian elements of Tarantism as thoughtless and artificial syncretism, a transparent attempt to avoid persecution from the authorities by slapping a random saint on the remnants of pagan customs. I’ve argued before that they knew exactly what they were doing in assigning patronage to Saint Paul (most notably here and here) but I didn’t quite realize how right they were until reading this piece called Lightning Scorpion Prophecy that argues Saul of Tarsos was duped and became an agent of Satan.

The author compares Jesus’ vision:

Then he said to them I saw the Adversary, Satan falling as lightning (astraphe) from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions and upon the whole of the hostile enemy’s power. And absolutely nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:18-19)

To Paul’s:

It happened. I was traveling and approaching Damascus, around noon, then suddenly nearby a burst of lightning (periastraphai) from heaven, an intense light all about me. (Acts 22:6)

And goes on to add:

Was this flash of lightning Paul experienced actually an encounter with Satan disguised as Jesus? It appears the similarities of their experiences are striking, and thus this is Jesus’ clue left behind to make us weigh whether Paul met Satan, not Jesus, on the road outside Damascus.

Which naturally reminds me of the prologue to Euripides’ Bakchai:

I’ve arrived here in the land of Thebes,
I, Dionysos, son of Zeus, born to him
from Semele, Kadmos’ daughter, delivered
by a fiery midwife—Zeus’ lightning flash.
Yes, I’ve changed my form from god to human,
appearing here at these streams of Dirke,
the waters of Ismaros. I see my mother’s tomb—
for she was wiped out by that lightning bolt.
It’s there, by the palace, with that rubble,
the remnants of her house, still smoldering
from Zeus’ living fire—Hera’s undying outrage
against my mother.

But it gets even more interesting than that:

Additionally, Jesus gave His disciples the express “authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions” in the context of confronting Satan’s power. While a serpent makes sense due to its spiritual associations, why did Jesus add “scorpions”? Would Jesus say this to help us later notice Paul was afflicted by a stinger-equivalent of a scorpion by Satan, by Paul’s own admission? Paul claimed that his pride was held in check by Satan because: “I was given a sharp pointed prod (skolops – such as a scorpion’s stinger) in the flesh, a messenger Satan in order that he would strike and torment me in order that I not become overly conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:6-7) Paul asked the person He assumed was the Lord to take it away, but this Lord refused. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8-9.) Why is this an important passage to consider? How does it undermine Paul? Had Paul meant thorn, the precise word is “Skolos,” which means “thorn or prickle.” (Quattrocchi, id., at 2436.) Skolops, by contrast means “anything pointed.” Id., at 2436. Another word for “thorn” which Paul could have used, if thorn were truly intended, was the word akantha which is the term used by other New Testament writers when referring to thorns. And stauros meant a stake of wood, large or small. So we should not necessarily indulge that Paul meant a ‘thorn’ or anything woodlike. What also points at the view that Paul likely meant it was a ‘stinger,’ or ‘scorpion’s stinger’ was Paul says it was sent as a “Messenger of Satan” as a chastisement to keep Paul humble. For scorpion’s stingers were used for chastisement in Solomon’s time. In III Kings 3:11 (Septuagint chaptering), the advice given by young men to Solomon on how to deal with backsliders was to tell them “I will chastise you with scorpions” — in Greek, skorpios. And given Paul says this skolops is from Satan to chastise him, it appears Paul was alluding to that function of a scorpion’s sting. The book of Revelation also mentions scorpion’s stingers as a form of “tormenting” someone, which Paul said was Satan’s purpose in giving him the “SKOLOPS.” See Rev. 9:10 (locusts of the pit “had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.”)

The taranta is the spiritual agent responsible for the symptoms of tarantismo, described by De Martino as:

… falling to the ground, a feeling of prostration, anguish, a state of psychomotor agitation with a beclouding of the sensory apparatus, difficulty in remaining standing, stomach ache, nausea and vomiting, various paraesthesia and muscular pains, a heightening of sexual desire.

I have tended to focus on the spider form of taranta (for obvious reasons) but as often as not they could appear as that other arachnid, the scorpion.

De Martino even quoted a bawdy song associated with Tarantism which invoked the good saint in his scorpion form:

Santu Paulu meu de le tarante
che pizzichi le caruse ‘nmezz’all’anche
Santu Paulu meu de li scorzoni
che pizzichi li carusi int’i balloni
Deu ti muzzicau la tarantella?
Sotto la pudìa de la vannella
.

[My Saint Paul of the tarante, who stings the girls between their hips
My Saint Paul of the scorzoni who stings the boys in their pants.
Where did the little taranta bite you?
Under the hem of my skirt.]

Which naturally makes one think of the great hunter Orion:

Orion–Hesiod says that he was the son of Euryale, the daughter of Minos, and of Poseidon, and that there was given him as a gift the power of walking upon the waves as though upon land. When he was come to Chios, he outraged Merope, the daughter of Oinopion, being drunken; but Oinopion when he learned of it was greatly vexed at the outrage and blinded him and cast him out of the country. Then he came to Lemnos as a beggar and there met Hephaistos who took pity on him and gave him Kedalion, his own servant, to guide him. So Orion took Kedalion upon his shoulders and used to carry him about while he pointed out the roads. Then he came to the east and appears to have met Helios (the Sun) and to have been healed, and so returned back again to Oinopion to punish him; but Oinopion was hidden away by his people underground. Being disappointed, then, in his search for the king, Orion went away to Crete and spent his time hunting in company with Artemis and Leto. It seems that he threatened to kill every beast there was on earth; whereupon, in her anger, Gaea sent up against him a Scorpion of very great size by which he was stung and so perished. After this Zeus, at the prayer of Artemis and Leto, put him among the stars, because of his manliness, and the Scorpion also as a memorial of him and of what had occurred. (Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Catasterismi Frag 32)

According to Parthenius Dionysos’ grand-daughter was Aëro rather than Merope:

Aëro, so the story runs, was the daughter of Oenopion and the nymph Helice. Orion, the son of Hyrieus, fell in love with her, and asked her father for her hand; for her sake he rendered the island where they lived habitable (it was formerly full of wild beasts), and he also gathered together much booty from the folk who lived there and brought it as a bridal-gift for her. Oenopion however constantly kept putting off the time of the wedding, for he hated the idea of having such a man as his daughter’s husband. Then Orion, maddened by strong drink, broke in the doors of the chamber where the girl was lying asleep, and as he was offering violence to her Oenopion attacked him and put out his eyes with a burning brand. (Erotica Pathemata 22)

It is also interesting to note that Orion’s trusted hound was placed among the stars too:

That star Seirios which comes on in the autumn and whose conspicuous brightness far outshines the stars that are numbered in the night’s darkening, the star they give the name of Orion’s Dog, which is brightest among the stars, and yet is wrought as a sign of evil and brings on the great fever for unfortunate mortals. (Homer, Iliad 22.26)

Step through to the other side

Etruscan myth provides us a glimpse into another world, one that is a distorted reflection of our own. Case in point, the Icarius Mirror:

tumblr_n2prddTU8d1rgfuxjo2_r1_1280

Click to enlarge and around the edge you’ll find an inscription which reads:

Ikra the king from Mount Ossa of Ixion,
three things on this side he went to see,
I long for the brother also to go,
I cut the grapes abundant of the wine-stock to owe,
to the wine press! Young boy,
three on the side bedewed.

Context is provided by Mel Copeland and the Schøyen Collection

MS in Etruscan on bronze, Etruria, Italy, 6th c. BC. Illustration of Icarius standing, with a club over his shoulder, with a Phrygian style cap, in a chariot pulled by two bearded centaurs, one carries a bunch of grapes, the other a long cutting knife and a wine bag, above Icarius is a cherub sprinkling water, below is Icarius’ dog Maera running. So far this seems to be the only contemporary example of Etruscan literature recorded, and where the text is illustrated in addition. This records a part of Greek mythology that is not yet fully known, adding some new information. Icarius was the hero of the Attic town of Icaria who had a daughter, Erigone. He had been taught by Dionysos to make wine and the Bacchalian rites, and he loaded a wagon with wine skins, called his faithful dog Maera, and set off to spread the word about wine. He gave wine to some sheperds who got drunk, and who believed Icarius had tried to poison them. They beat him to death with clubs and buried him under a tree.

This suggests oh so very much to me. For instance, as Ikarios received the bakcheia from Dionysos, the God was instructed in them by the centaur Cheiron, at least according to Ptolemy Hephaistion’s New History (as preserved in Photius, Myriobiblon 190):

Dionysos was loved by Cheiron, from whom he learned chants and dances, the so-called Bacchic rites and initiations.

Euphorion, however, believed that Dionysos was older than the centaurs and inadvertently responsible for their creation:

Wroth with Hyes, the bull-horned Dionysos,
Rheione cast mind-destroying drugs upon the Pheres;
all those drugs in which Polydamna or Cytaean Mede were skilled.

The Etymologicum Genuinum states that Ῥείωνη is a name for Hera, while Nonnos (Dionysiaka 14.143–185) provides the rest of the story our fragment can only allude to: angry that the Pheres (a primitive race who lived in the mountains) had nursed the infant Dionysos, the Goddess Hera gave them poisonous drugs, transforming them into centaurs “who had the horns of bulls.”

Euphorion, who lived during the Hellenistic era, is one of our earliest testimonies to the Titanic sparagmos of Dionysos:

Dionysos, too, was honoured in Delphi together with Apollon, in the following way. The Titans tore asunder Dionysos’ limbs, threw them into a cauldron, and set it before his brother Apollon. Apollon stowed it away beside his tripod, as we learn from Kallimachos and Euphorion, who says:

Into the fire those arrogant beings cast divine Bacchus

(Tzetzes’s commentary on Lykophron’s Alexandra 207.98.5)

Which parallels Ikarios getting mauled by the mad throng of drugged peasants. However there’s an even more direct parallel with Ikarios in the story of Pholos’ reception of the ambivalent gift of Dionysos:

Pholos was a centaur who received Herakles with the courtesies due to a guest and opened for him a jar of wine which had been buried in the earth. This jar, the writers of myths relate, had of old been left with a certain centaur by Dionysos, who had given him orders only to open it when Herakles should come to that place. And so, four generations after that time, when Herakles was being entertained as a guest, Pholos recalled the orders of Dionysos. Now when the jar had been opened the sweet odour of the wine, because of its great age and strength, came to the centaurs dwelling near there, it came to pass that they were driven mad; consequently they rushed in a body to the dwelling of Pholos and set about plundering him of the wine in a terrifying manner. (Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.12.3)

Though I was familiar with this legend I never noticed until now how it’s basically a condensed version of the Aiora and Anthesteria but with Herakles taking the place of Orestes, the way the Keres are swapped out for the Sirens in the South Italian version of the festival. There’s even a jar of wine buried in the earth.

Say: wine, centaurs, Ixion – where have I seen that combination before?

Oh yes, that trusted authority Robert Graves:

Since revising The Greek Myths in 1958, I have had second thoughts about the drunken god Dionysus, about the Centaurs with their contradictory reputation for wisdom and misdemeanour, and about the nature of divine ambrosia and nectar. These subjects are closely related, because the Centaurs worshipped Dionysus, whose wild autumnal feast was called `the Ambrosia’. I no longer believe that when his Maenads ran raging around the countryside, tearing animals or children in pieces and boasted afterwards of travelling to India and back, they had intoxicated themselves solely on wine or ivy-ale. The evidence, summarized in my What Food the Centaurs Ate (Steps: Cassell & Co., 1958, pp.319-343) suggests that Satyrs (goat-totem tribesemen), Centaurs (horse-totem tribesmen), and their Maenad womenfolk, used these brews to wash down mouthfuls of a far stronger drug: namely a raw mushroom,amanita muscaria, which induces hallucinations, senseless rioting, prophetic sight, erotic energy, and remarkable muscular strength. Some hours of this ecstasy are followed by complete inertia; a phenomenon that would account for the story of how Lycurgus, armed only with an ox-goad, routed Dionysus’s drunken army of Maenads and Satyrs after its victorious return from India.

On an Etruscan mirror the amanita muscaria is engraved at Ixion’s feet; he was a Thessalian hero who feasted on ambrosia among the gods. Several myths are consistent with my theory that his descendents, the Centaurs, ate this mushroom; and, according to some historians, it was later employed by the Norse `berserks’ to give them reckless power in battle. I now believe that `ambrosia’ and `nectar’ were intoxicant mushrooms: certainly the amanita muscaria; but perhaps others, too, especially a small, slender dung-mushroom named panaeolus papilionaceus, which induces harmless and most enjoyable hallucinations. A mushroom not unlike it appears on an Attic vase between the hooves of Nessus the Centaur. The `gods’ for whom, in the myths, ambrosia and nectar were reserved, will have been sacred queens and kings of the pre-Classical era. King Tantalus’s crime was that he broke the taboo by inviting commoners to share his ambrosia.

I have myself eaten the hallucigenic mushroom, psilocybe, a divine ambrosia in immemorial use among the Masatec Indians of Oaxaca Province, Mexico; heard the priestess invoke Tlaloc, the Mushroom-god, and seen transcendental visions. Thus I wholeheartedly agree with R. Gordon Wasson, the American discoverer of this ancient rite, that European ideas of heaven and hell may well have derived from similar mysteries. Tlaloc was engendered by lightning; so was Dionysus; and in Greek folklore, as in Masatec, so are all mushrooms — proverbially called `food of the gods’ in both languages. Tlaloc wore a serpent-crown; so did Dionysus. Tlaloc had an underwater retreat; so had Dionysus. The Maenads’ savage custom of tearing off their victims’ heads may refer allegorically to tearing off the sacred mushroom’s head — since in Mexico its stalk is never eaten. We read that Perseus, a sacred King of Argos, converted to Dionysus worship, named Mycenae after a toadstool which he found growing on the site, and which gave forth a stream of water. Tlaloc’s emblem was a toad, so was that of Argos; and from the mouth of Tlaloc’s toad in the Tepentitla fresco issues a stream of water.

Dig deep enough, maaaan, and everything’s a mushroom.

Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy

I’m always fascinated by the glimpses we get of local variant traditions in Italy, such as this Etruscan mirror:

ariadne-esia

Nancy de Grummond in Mirrors, Marriage and Mystery explains the scene thusly:

Another specimen, of a Praenestine pear-shaped type but with Etruscan inscription, has the theme of the fate of Esia, a name unknown in Greco-Roman myth. E. H. Richardson argued that she was the equivalent of Ariadne, in a story of the latter’s death as caused by Artemis, and many have accepted her suggestion. She is held wrapped up like a dead soul by Artumes, who displays the arrows with which the goddess is accustomed to end the lives of young girls. Next to her stand Fufluns, the Etruscan Dionysos, a bearded male with a drinking cup, and a winged Menrva. Below, coming up from the ground, appears an oracular head. We do not know its message, but most likely it relates to the fate of Esia. It may be that Fufluns will receive her and bestow immortality upon her. Whatever the message, Fufluns and Menrva seem to react strongly: Menrva throws up both hands in a gesture of surprise (or dismay?) and Fufluns also raises one hand. We shall observe these gestures again in other scenes of individuals who are receiving a prophecy.

I’d love to know more details of this story, as it has some direct bearing on the relationship between Ariadne and Arachne, a subject of no little importance within the Starry Bull tradition.

Speaking of which, I received a bit of external corroboration a while back from no less than the Bard, good old Willy Shakespeare himself.

I’ll let Elizabeth Freund tell the tale:

In Book VI of The Metamorphoses Ovid tells the story of Arachne, a subtle weaver of Lydia, too skillful for her own good. She dares to rival Pallas Athene with her superior artistry at the loom. Mortal and goddess engaged in a competition in which each wove splendid scene into her tapestry. Athene represented the Immortals (including herself) as all-powerful figures of authority, while Arachne chose to weave tales of divine erotica into her web. When the work was done not even Athene’s envy could deny the superior quality of Arachne’s art. In her jealous rage the goddess struck through Arachne’s loom and tore the tapestry. The girl, ashamed and humiliated, hung herself, but the goddess restored her to life as a spider.

Arachne makes a single, abbreviated appearance in the Shakespearean canon, and even then her provenance is doubtful. Her tale of ill-fated rivalry with divine artistic power is curtailed to a rather obscure simile in V.ii of Troilus and Cressida.

Troilus: Within my soul there doth conduce a fight
Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate
Divides more wider than the sky and earth;
And yet the spacious breadth of this division
Admits no orifex for a point as subtle
As Ariachne’s broken woof to enter.
(V.ii 146-51)

By what devious detours of the imagination does this apocryphal “Ariachne” find her way into the texture of Troilus and Cressida? How subtle is “a point as subtle as Ariachne’s broken woof?” What are we to make of this pointed figure, sharp enough to penetrate the impenetrable, yet obscured by breakage and division? How Ariadne, who provided Theseus with the clue of a thread to guide him out of the Cretan maze, came to be enmeshed in Arachne’s web, whether by a printer’s carelessness or in an author’s slip of the pen or daring of the imagination, is probably beyond conclusive recovery. “Ariachne” may be an “original,” a felicitous neologism spun spider-fashion out of the creator’s own gut; or she may be no more than the accidental issue of a typesetter’s clumsy fingers. In either event she is a new creation who also carries incontestable traces of prior origins.

The conflation or confusion of this marginal figure of “Ariachne,” who is and is not Arachne, is and is not Ariadne, points the way into the major labyrinth of citation and the travesty of citation which is the “stuff” out of which Troilus and Cressida “makes paradoxes” (I. iii. 184). Yet this fragmentary clue proves also the very obstacle which thwarts the expectation of a safe conduct through the maze.

And while you’re pondering all of that, listen to Ariadna en su Laberinto (Ariadne in Her Labyrinth) – a traditional Sephardic romance by Osvaldo Golijov, from his song-cycle Ayre.

Here are the lyrics:

Why do you cry fair child?
Why do you cry, white flower?
I cry because you leave me.

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.