Philosophy kitties #2

Bertolt Brecht


Following the drum
The calves trot
The skin for the drum
They deliver themselves.
The butcher calls. The eyes tightly closed
The calf marches on with calmly assured step.
The calves, whose blood has already been shed in the slaughterhouse
In spirit they march along in their ranks.

They lift their hands
And show them around
They are already stained with blood
And are still empty.
The butcher calls. The eyes tightly closed
The calf marches on with calmly assured step.
The calves, whose blood has already been shed in the slaughterhouse
In spirit they march along in their ranks.

They carry a cross ahead
On bloody crimson flags
That has for the poor man
A great hook.
The butcher calls. The eyes tightly closed
The calf marches on with calmly assured step.
The calves, whose blood has already been shed in the slaughterhouse
In spirit they march along in their ranks.

Do not click that link

Guasón and I are discussing Bacchic xoana, which reminded me of one of the most famous of all — the thunderous miracle which occurred at Magnḗsĭa ad Mæándrum. Don’t just check it out — feel free to join in!

Over here, however, we’re discussing the mysteries — so definitely do not click that link!

Circles, etc.

I’m not sure if any scholars have made this connection before, but this inscription:

ISmyrna 726
According to the decree of the initiates of the Goddess Kore’s sacred enclosure and those who stepped in (i.e. were initiated, or stepped into the sacred enclosure) who are in Smyrna together with the . . .

Seems to add some important context to one of the gold leaves from Thurii:

A: I come from the pure, o Pure Queen of the earthly ones, Eukles, Eubouleus, and You other Immortal Gods! I too claim to be of your blessed race, but Fate and other Immortal Gods conquered me, the star-smiting thunder. And I flew out from the hard and deeply-grievous circle, and stepped onto the crown with my swift feet, and slipped into the bosom of the Mistress (Kore), the Queen of the Underworld. And I stepped out from the crown with my swift feet.
B: Happy and blessed one! You shall be a god instead of a mortal.
A: I have fallen as a kid into milk.

Red thoughts

There are a pair of quotes that have long intrigued me. They are:

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.2.6-7
The things worthy of mention in the city of Corinth include the extant remains of antiquity, but the greater number of them belong to the period of its second ascendancy. On the market-place, where most of the sanctuaries are, stand Artemis surnamed Ephesian and wooden images of Dionysos, which are covered with gold with the exception of their faces; these are ornamented with red paint. They are called Lysios and Bakcheios, and I too give the story told about them. They say that Pentheus treated Dionysos spitefully, his crowning outrage being that he went to Kithairon, to spy upon the women, and climbing up a tree beheld what was done. When the women detected Pentheus, they immediately dragged him down, and joined in tearing him, living as he was, limb from limb. Afterwards, as the Corinthians say, the Pythian priestess commanded them by an oracle to discover that tree and to worship it equally with the God. For this reason they have made these images from the tree.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7.26.11
You may reckon Phelloe one of the towns in Greece best supplied with flowing water. There are sanctuaries of Dionysos and of Artemis. The Goddess is of bronze, and is taking an arrow from her quiver. The image of Dionysos is painted with vermilion. On going down from Aegeira to the port, and walking on again, we see on the right of the road the sanctuary of the Huntress, where they say the goat crouched.

I have questions. Like: why is this distinct practice found in such vastly different parts of Greece? How commonplace was it? What did it represent? Why are Dionysos and Artemis paired in both instances?

I was also curious why the translator used different words for red – was it just a creative flourish or reflective of the original Greek, and if so what word(s) did Pausanias employ in his text?

Thankfully that last one is easy enough to answer. Here are the texts in Greek, with the words in question bolded.

λόγου δὲ ἄξια ἐν τῇ πόλει τὰ μὲν λειπόμενα ἔτι τῶν ἀρχαίων ἐστίν, τὰ δὲ πολλὰ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τῆς ἀκμῆς ἐποιήθη τῆς ὕστερον. ἔστιν οὖν ἐπὶ τῆς ἀγορᾶς— ἐνταῦθα γὰρ πλεῖστά ἐστι τῶν ἱερῶν—Ἄρτεμίς τε ἐπίκλησιν Ἐφεσία καὶ Διονύσου ξόανα ἐπίχρυσα πλὴν τῶν προσώπων: τὰ δὲ πρόσωπα ἀλοιφῇ σφισιν ἐρυθρᾷ κεκόσμηται: Λύσιον δέ, τὸν δὲ Βάκχειον ὀνομάζουσι. (2.2.6)

εἰ δέ τινα τῶν ἐν Ἕλλησι πολισματίων ἀφθόνῳ καταρρεῖται τῷ ὕδατι, ἀριθμεῖν καὶ τὴν Φελλόην ἔστιν ἐν τούτοις. θεῶν δὲ ἱερὰ Διονύσου καὶ Ἀρτέμιδός ἐστιν: ἡ μὲν χαλκοῦ πεποίηται, βέλος δὲ ἐκ φαρέτρας λαμβάνουσα: τῷ Διονύσῳ δὲ ὑπὸ κινναβάρεως τὸ ἄγαλμά ἐστιν ἐπηνθισμένον. ἐς δὲ τὸ ἐπίνειον καταβᾶσιν ἐξ Αἰγείρας καὶ αὖθις ἐς τὰ πρόσω βαδίζουσιν ἔστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς ὁδοῦ τὸ ἱερὸν τῆς Ἀγροτέρας, ἔνθα τὴν αἶγα ὀκλάσαι λέγουσιν. (7.26.11)

And it turns out that they are slightly different. The first is ἐρυθρᾷ from ἐρυθρός, the standard Greek word for red, which we use in the Starry Bull tradition to refer to the period from July to September, when we celebrate Dionysos in his Hunter aspect and honor the Furious Host alongside him.

In the second instance, however, Pausanias uses κινναβάρεως which the Little Liddle gives as:

cinnabar, bisulphuret of mercury, whence vermilion is obtained; thought by some to be serpent’s blood

And a little later on ἐπηνθισμένον:

to deck as with flowers, make bright-coloured; decorate, adorn; give one a red tint; brighten, give lustre to a dye.


Our polytheism is so hard

One of the important things to keep in mind is that Orphism is an umbrella term beneath which gather a number of similar but disparate traditions. This is why I am always careful to specify that the Starry Bull tradition is a branch of Bacchic Orphism. Partly this has to do with the primary divinities honored — in Crete, Athens and Platonism it’s Zeus, in Pythagoreanism and Hyperborea it’s Apollon, in Southern Italy it’s Persephone and Dionysos, in Thrace it’s a syncretic Dionysos-Apollon/Helios or Sabazios and in various locales it’s Demeter or Rheia/Kybele. Each of these has its own customs, practices, tabboos, beliefs (sometimes including cosmology and eschatology) which can make generalizing about Orphism both difficult and problematic. Hence why so much of the literature on the subject is misleading or simply wrong. And while these may be the most prominent deities in their respective traditions don’t for a moment think they’re the only ones; Orphism is one of the hardest of ancient polytheisms, often separating divinities I tend to lump together or incorporating local indigenous divinities. I’m simplifying this for the sake of discussion. 

Now with less male genitalia

[Note: this post was deleted by WordPress without any notice, etc. likely because of the accompanying image which contained male nudity. Ironically, my post on Sokrates’ polygamy, which had a pic of two totally naked chicks in it, did not trigger the censors. So here it is again, now with less male genitalia.]

Don’t worry! Just because Dionysos has some asexual aspects doesn’t mean he’s a prude. There are cocks and prostitutes (especially Thaïs and Phryne) lying about everywhere — as well as Priapos, who is more cock than man, and his son with the Goddess Aphrodite. (Not to mention the God is queer as a 3$ bill.) 

Life is a festival

εἶναι μανιώδη πάντα τἀνθρώπων ὅλως,
ἀποδημίας δὲ τυγχάνειν ἡμᾶς ἀεὶ τοὺς ζῶντας,
ὥσπερ εἰς πανήγυρίν τινα ἀφειμένους ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ σκότους
εἰς τὴν διατριβὴν εἰς τὸ φῶς τε τοῦθ᾿, ὃ δὴ ὁρῶμεν ὃς δ᾿ἂν πλεῖστα γελάσηι
καὶ πίηι καὶ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἀντιλάβηται τὸν χρόνον τοῦτον ὃν ἀφεῖται,
κἂν τύχηι γ᾿, ἐράνου τινός, πανηγυρίσας ἥδιστ᾿ ἀπῆλθεν οἴκαδε.

Human existence is entirely, completely insane,
and as long as we’re alive, we’re enjoying a reprieve,
like going to a festival; we’ve been released from death
and darkness, and allowed to have a party in this light we see.
And whoever laughs the most, and drinks the most, and grabs as much
Aphrodite during the time he’s released, or a dinner party if he gets
the chance— he’s the happiest when he goes home after the festival. (Alexis fr. 222, 9–17)


Pseudo-Scymnus, Circuit of the Earth 748
Odessa, which was founded by the Milesians when Astyages was ruler of Media; this has the Krobyzan Thracians in a ring around it. Nearby Dionysopolis, which first was named Krounoi from its founts of water, they say is called Dionysopolis after a Dionysiac statue which was retrieved from the sea there.

Katerina Amanatidou, The cult of Dionysos in the Black Sea region
In Odessa’s necropolis was unearthed the remains of a coroplastic workshop, dated from the 3rd century BC, which produced a variety of terracotta statuettes intended for the decoration of sarcophagi. Among the produced types were representations of Dionysos, of Satyrs and Maenads. A miniature mask of a smiling Silen wreathed with ivy leaves was found in the debris of the building. Furthermore, clay figurines of Dionysos and his wife Ariadne came to light at excavations in other parts of the city. Likewise, votive reliefs made of lead and shaped as bull heads were found at the site. Those reliefs that were encircled with a decoration of grapes functioned, probably, as offerings to the god. An imported amphora neck of the Hellenistic period bearing the relief image of a Satyr’s head was also discovered. Finally, the excavations yielded an almost life-size marble statue of a Satyr and two attic red figure bell craters bearing Dionysian scenes with Satyrs and Maenads.

Thunder is heard in the clear sky

Suidas s.v. Nemesis
Nemesis : Vengeance, justice, outrage, divine jealousy, fortune. ‘Perceiving Nemesis, the executioner of braggarts, who pursued them with justice.’ And again : ‘he did not escape the notice of Nemesis who opposes all the arrogant, but was compelled to be taught a lesson in his own misfortunes.’ ‘Nemesis was present, she who watches the things of the earth’; or in other words, she who watches unjust acts. Babrios says this in the Fables. And Aelian says : ‘palpable evidence of Nemesis the overseer, chastizing proud and disdainful ways.’ And a proverb : ‘At least Nemesis walks at your feet’; that is to say that the goddess swiftly pursues wrong-doers. ‘Unnoticed she walks at your feet, snaps your haughty neck, and always holds sway over your sustenance with her forearm.’

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.33.4
A little way inland from Rhamnos is a sanctuary of Nemesis, the most implacable deity to men of violence. It is thought that the wrath of this goddess fell also upon the foreigners [i.e. the Persian army] who landed at Marathon.