And it really was a wonderful tea. There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled, for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake. And when Lucy was tired of eating, the Faun began to talk. He had wonderful tales to tell of life in the forest. He told about the midnight dances and how the Nymphs who lived in the wells and the Dryads who lived in the trees came out to dance with the Fauns; about long hunting parties after the milk-white stag who could give you wishes if you caught him; about feasting and treasure-seeking with the wild Red Dwarfs in deep mines and caverns far beneath the forest floor; and then about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end. “Not that it isn’t always winter now,” he added gloomily. Then to cheer himself up he took out from its case on the dresser a strange little flute that looked as if it were made of straw and began to play. And the tunr he played made Lucy want to cry and laugh and dance and go to sleep all at the same time. It must have been hours later when she shook herself and said:
“Oh, Mr. Tumnus–I’m sorry to stop you and I do love that tune–but really, I must go home. I only meant to stay for a few minutes.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 1950 pages 15-17
(The First and Second Cantors stand at either side of the stage. Bacchus enters, concealing with a vine-draped arm all of his face below the eyes)
The First Cantor
Why hide your face with vines, lad?
Why stand mysterious?
Show your face and tell us why
And what you want of us.
I wonder if I know you, lad.
I’ve seen your eyes before.
There s a glow in them as genial
As an opening door
With a yellow light behind it
And a handshake and a song
And a welcome to a fellowship
Where happy folk belong.
I wonder why your presence,
Half-hidden, seems to be
The reaching of the redwoods,
The slipping of the sea
And the swaying of the heart of wine
Within the heart of me.
Lad, are you the merry god
Bacchus (showing his face)
I am he.
Though not so merry nowadays
As I dared to be
In the days of Alexander,
I am Bacchus, I am he
Whom young men choose, old wives chastise
And solemn men abhor,
Because the truth is in my eyes,
Because my mother bore
A light and easy soothsayer,
Natural and wild,
Fierce and happy as the sun,
When Bacchus was her child.
I stole the grapes from her other hand,
She pretended not to look,
And the heat of my fingers turned them to wine
And that was the milk I took,
Till I grew and flourished and became
The most beloved boy
Who ever danced among the leaves
Of elemental joy.
And everybody laughed my name
And pulse was never quicker
Than when the unforbidden hills
Blessed the world with liquor
And everybody drank it
And everybody knew
Festival-hymns and holiday-tunes . . .
The First Cantor
Here are singers too!
“For he’s a jolly good fellow—”
Sing to him — all of you!
The Company (singing and concluding)
“For he’s a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny.”
And how can a jolly good fellow
Bear to say good-bye?
O let me pledge you in a drink
Before I hide my face!
The Second Cantor (refusing the proffered cup)
No, thank you. You have earned too well
Your measure of disgrace.
And who are you who will not drink?
Silenus (entering eagerly)
By the gods, I’ll take his cup!
The First Cantor
He s a tale-telling teetotaller.
A meddler and a pup!
The Second Cantor (to Bacchus, indicating Silenus)
Look well at him, if you wonder why
I spurn what you propose —
At the purple viney pattern
Of the veining of his nose!
He followed you and the dryads,
He dreamed a dream in his youth,
And his house has tumbled about him
In ashes — that’s the truth!
What do I want of houses
While a cave holds off a storm?
And what do I want of a hearthstone
While there’s wine to keep me warm?
The Second Cantor
You had a wife who pleaded,
With children at her knees!
My wife was like Xantippe,
Who scolded Socrates
When he went the way of drinking men
With Alcibiades —
When he went the way of thinking men
And dodged the homely pot,
As I have dodged the missiles
Of the whole confounded lot.
Sir, can you quote me wisdom
From men who never tipple
That has made a stir in the world like his?
No, sir — not a ripple! —
So here’s to poets, philosophers,
By all the seven seas,
Greek, Roman, Gallic, British, Dutch
And Persian and Chinese!
Though it double me rheumatic —
Here’s to Socrates!
You it is, with disregard
Of measure and time and place,
Who have brought on both of us this day
Of exile and disgrace,
Yet, Silenus, you’re forgiven,
For I’d rather live in a hut
Away from all my friends but you
Than have had you learn to shut
A virtuous mouth like a trap for birds
And a fist like a purse for squeeze —
You’ve an open mouth and hand and heart,
And they have none of these.
The Second Cantor
Are you meaning me?
Yes, even you,
Too careful to be bold.
Before you take a step, you look,
Before you’re young, you’re old.
Before you think in your own terms,
You think in other people’s
And stilt your life as orderly
As pulpits and as steeples.
What can the ocean mean to you,
Draining the shore,
And the wind that drinks the redwoods
And waves its arms for more,
And the dogs that romp in the flowers,
And the cats that sing in the alleys,
And the skylarks in the zenith,
And the waterfalls in the valleys?
In this happy, crooked, drunken world
How you can bid us go
As dry as dust and as straight as a corpse
To a graveyard, I don’t know.
The Second Cantor
Do the dogs and the cats and the skylarks
Need booze to make them gay?
What about cats and catnip?
Men need more than they! . . .
O the fruit of the tree of knowledge
Was a liquor on the tree —
And when they chose the apple,
Adam and Eve chose me!
And the children of Jehovah,
As well as the children of Zeus,
Were the better for their knowledge
When the godhead turned them loose.
For there’s nothing so sure as freedom
To make the heart rejoice.
The happiness of manhood,
The guerdon of life — is choice!
And a road that is rough is smoother,
So be it the road you choose,
Than a smooth road chosen for you
Where what you win you lose . . .
I am a godly companion,
A touchstone and a test,
And who chooses with the other gods
Bacchus — chooses best.
For what is life itself but wine,
And what am I but life?
And they who cut our kinship
Use a deadly knife.
And even he who, reckless,
Comes too close to a god
Is wiser than he who numbers his bones
To fertilize the sod . . .
Hear the truth from Bacchus —
My blood is spring in the veins,
And he who would deny the spring
Shall perish for his pains . . .
There s a place in the woods where wild apples grow
And the feet of young Bacchus shall tread them,
And if venturers find us, they’ll ask us when they go
What nectar it is we have fed them.
We shall hew a rock-hollow and seal it with clay
And mark it with Bacchus’s fillet —
Wild honey and attar of roses and hay
Shall sweeten our wine and distill it.
Bacchus (moving slowly away with Silenus)
There where the sun sets, winey in the mountains,
There where the moon uplifts her frosty cup,
Bacchus shall come and free the merry fountains
And drink the winter down and the springtide up.
And a welcome shall well there for fortunate companions,
From Silenus or from Bacchus, whichever you prefer.
We shall crown you and lead you through the wildgrape canyons
And comfort you with apples and laugh at the cur
Who would harry at your heels and snarl the woods about you,
We shall hear him faintly barking beyond the happy peaks.
Exile is sweet when fools are left without you
And the wild wine of wisdom is the color in your cheeks.
You may learn there of nature, as Bacchus has learned,
How hemlock is deadlier than grapes are to quaff,
Or if you never find us, or have left us and returned,
You still shall hear us echoing the sound of your laugh . . .
So remember us and praise us, though the time be long,
And sing a song of other days when Bacchus came and went.
And so the heart of Bacchus shall be happy in your song
And the foot of Bacchus steal within your tent.
For you who once have known me never can forget me.
Your other friends are mortal, Bacchus is divine.
Now for a little while evil days beset me . . .
But sing me into exile “for auld lang syne”!
The Company (singing, as Bacchus and Silenus leave them)
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And never brought to mind,
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And the days of auld lang syne?”
(Even the Second Cantor joining, with a cup)
“For auld lang syne, my boys,
“For auld lang syne,
“We’ll take a cup and drink it up,
“To the days of auld lang syne.”
— Witter Bynner (1881-1968), A Canticle of Bacchus
It was politic no doubt to encourage the weaker brethren by building churches on sites where they had long been wont to worship: it was politic to smooth the path of the common folk by substituting for the god whom they had worshipped a patron-saint of like name or attributes. But in so doing the Church practically condoned polytheism. She drove out the old gods from their temples made with hands, but did not ensure the obliteration of them from men’s hearts. The saints whom she set up in the place of the old deities were certain to acquire the rank of gods in the estimation of the people and, despite the niceties of ecclesiastical doctrine, to become in fact objects of frank and open worship. The adoption of the old places of worship made it inevitable that the old associations of the pagan cults should survive and blend themselves with the new ideas, and that the churches should more often acquire prestige from their heathen sites than themselves shed a new lustre of sanctity upon them. In effect, paganism was not uprooted to make room for the planting of Christianity, but served rather as an old stock on which a new and vigorous branch … owing its very vitality to alien sap, might be engrafted. Bitterly and despondently did the early Fathers of the Church, above all John Chrysostom, complain of the inveteracy of pagan customs within the pale of the Church, while a kind of official recognition was given to many superstitions which were clearly outside the pale. — J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion page 41
Fisher-folk, islands, peasants in Greece of today may profess and call themselves Christians; but under the surface they are as pagan and polytheistic in their hearts as were their ancestors because by their acceptance of Christendom with its saints they have not diminished the number of their gods. All this comes through in the tales we still know about the God of Wine and his votaries.
In the island of Naxos once devoted to the worship of Dionysos, popular tradition ascribes to Saint Dionysius the introduction of the grape; while in the neighboring island of Paros, Saint George is worshipped under the title of the “drunkard” (Methystes), because his festivals there on the 15th November is the signal for broaching the new wine. The story of the introduction of the grape of Naxos is told as follows:
When Dionysius was still young, he made a journey through Greece in order to cross to Naxos. Being tired upon his way, he sat down upon a stone to rest. As he sat there, he perceived a very small plant growing in the ground before him, which appeared to him so beautiful that he determined to take it with him, to plant there. But fearing lest the heat of the sun should wither it before he got to Naxos, he placed it in the thigh-bone of a bird, the better to carry it. As he went on, however, the plant grew so rapidly in the hand of the saint that the shoots came out at either end of the bone. Fearing anew that it would wither in the sun, he cast about what he should do, and finding the thigh-bone of a lion he inserted into this the plant with the other bone. But it still grew and filled the lion’s bone. Then he lit on the skull of an ass, and into this he slipped the two other bones with the plant, and so brought it safely to Naxos. But when he came to plant it the roots were so firmly fixed in the bones that he was forced to plant bones and roots together. The plant grew and prospered and bore magnificent grapes, and from these they made the first wine, and the saint gave it men to drink. And then the wonder of it was that when they had drunk a little they sang like birds, when they drank more they grew strong as lions, but then if they drank yet more they became like asses.
One is once more reminded of Silenus and the Bacchic rout of jollity in the curious mediaeval cult at Naxos of Saint Pachys (Saint Fat), a saint whose intervention was held to confer the desirable gift of obesity, a quality which must have been much esteemed in the early Middle Ages, seeing what work the Duke Marco Sanudo had to put this worship down. He, having taken possession in 1207 of the island, founded the Duchy of the Aegean Sea, built a splendid castle, and, as a good Catholic, set about the abolition of a cult that savoured of antique paganism.
Difficulties such as never existed in the ancient world concerning nakedness have become endemic in the Eastern Church which has forced prudery on the people’s bodies though not on their minds. maenads or Thyiads, ready to appear unclothed, or nearly so, would not be found in Greece today. And yet there does exist in what was once ancient Thrace, perhaps the original home of Bacchos himself, a practice which has kinship with ancient ways. Dionysos was god of all fertile and life-giving fluids including rain, for he was in a fashion, as son of Zeus Almighty, his deputy on earth. That is why even today a girl wearing corn and vine-leaves may appear once in a while as a ministrant of the fertility god. Among the Vlachs of that region, who are apt to be classed as gypsies because of their nomadic habits, but who are denizens of the Thraco-Macedonian area, it is the custom to choose a girl as “rain-maker”. She is stripped and goes naked except for a short skirt of corn and vines. Girls thus scantily attired go from house to house and are drenched by people with buckets of water. The ceremony used to occur regularly on the third Tuesday after Easter, but my be repeated during summer at any time of drought. There is something about this strange custom existing in the heart of what once was Thrace that cannot fail to recall the wilder maenads of the ancient world. Mountain and meadow, sea-shore and the rolling flowery hills of Arcadia, island uplands and sands glittering in moonlight, all these — so the peasants and fisher-folk will tell you — are still inhabited by supernatural beings; nymphs, satyrs and Pan. They have seen them and some of us have seen them too. Nymphs are no longer known by that name since in modern Greek Nymphe means a bride, and so these lovely feminine spirits of the Wild are called Nereids today. If they are conceived as belonging to certain caves, or trees, springs, streams or the sea they still are Nereids.
The late John Cuthbert Lawson, Fellow of Pembroke College, Honorary Commander in the Greek Navy during the First World War, whose lectures I, as an undergraduate, had the good fortune to attend, was a calm and very level-headed man. He wrote as follows:
I myself once had a Nereid pointed out to me by my guide, and there certainly was the semblance of a female figure draped in white and tall beyond human statue flitting in the dusk between the gnarled and twisted boles of an old olive-yard. What the apparition was, I had no leisure to investigate; for my guide with many signs of the cross and muttered invocation of the Virgin urged my mule to perilous haste along the rough mountain-path. But had I inherited, as he, a belief in Nerieds together with a fertile gift of mendacity, I should doubtless have corroborated the highly-coloured story which he told when we reached the light and safety of the next village; and the ready acceptance of the story by those who heard it proved to me that a personal encounter with Nereids was really reckoned among the possible incidents of every-day life.
Indeed I am very ready to believe him, partly because he once told me that he had seen a Nereid, partly because of what I myself have seen, in Greece.
Human votaries were not the sole participants in the rout of Dionysos, for Maenads and bacchoi and bacchai were joined betimes by such half-divine creatures as nymphs and satyrs and Pan. It is many years now since I saw him, but I make bold to state that I once saw a satyr on Mount Parnassus. In the year 1925 we were a party of four at Delphi where we spent some days, and in late April a visit to the Corycian Cave is a most memorable event. My wife and I had been there two years before and I could have found my way to it with ease. But the rather nervous Cambridge don and the rather vague school-master between them advocated obtaining the services of the Parnassus guide, George Mourtsos, today an old man tough as a walnut, one of my best friends in Greece, who can still climb the mountain and put youngsters to shame. We set out in perfect weather up the “Bad Stair”, and reached the splendid rolling plain 4000 feet above sea level. After a drink at one of those enchanting ice-cold springs of water, and after a rest, we began to move in an easterly direction. Don and “Mr Chips” would talk when they should have used eyes, not tongues; my wife was a friendly listener to their learned chatter. George Mourtsos, who had crossed himself three times, as we started out for the cave, hung back. Before long I found myself walking far ahead of the other four; half a mile in advance of them; silent, no distinct thoughts, but the mystic, the numinous was taking possession of my being.
And then suddenly I saw HIM. Anemones and cyclamen, and smaller flowers were shining in hollows that held dark-brown soil and glitter-white stones; other hollows held in their depths the last cushions of winter snow, still unmelted. Trees were sparse where my route lay, but there were cedars and mountain pines and a few small hesitant beeches veiled in pale-green. Against this setting the satyr was very clear and quite solid. Matted black hair, long pointed ears, a sturdy muscular body deep red-brown of tan, hairy, and still more hairy where the thighs began to be merged into goat-legs ending in hooves. A black tail; I took it all in as he trotted across my path not twenty yards away.I stopped and he stopped, and both looked at one another. Never have I seen such fear in eyes except, perhaps, in the eyes of a trembling spaniel. Suddenly he drummed on his chest with clenched fists, turned and ran straight for the trunk of a large cedar. Filled now with delight and curiosity I walked silently and as quickly as I dared up to that tree and round it. No satyr to be seen. That was a reality.
— Charles Seltman, Wine in the Ancient World (1957) pages 175-180
But the Sicilians, at first so happy with the change of rule, didn’t remain happy very long. They disliked the Byzantines’ garb, colorful as it was, for it draped in heavy folds completely hiding the figure. Of the live human body only the face showed, and not always that, for upper-class women were made to wear veils (the only women in Christian Europe to do so). In the hot weather it seemed that the Byzantines were punishing the body. The new rulers likewise stifled the mind. The Byzantines gave their women little to do besides bearing and caring for children, and allowed them virtually no contact beyond their immediate families. Byzantine scholars, in sharp contrast to their Greek ancestors’ open questioning, obliged the Sicilians to learn by rote. As the only patrons of the arts were the church and the church-imbued state, all art was religious art. Artists and craftsmen worked in groups with no chance for the individual to display initiative in what he would produce or how. Nor was the human propensity for fun to be indulged. The Greeks’ popular god Dionysius [sic], the patron of the theater and of merrymaking generally — known to the Romans as Bacchus — was transformed by the Byzantines into a demon. Bacchic feasting had characterized, particularly, the final days of the Sicilians’ grape harvest; the Byzantines tried to suppress the festival. Byzantine priests interfered with carnivals, which they considered licentious, and refused to baptize actors so as to hinder theatrical productions. But the populace paid little heed, risking anathema to attend the amusements.
— Sandra Benjamin, Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History (2006) pages 122-23
Jove has commanded Bacchus not to convene his court and not to allow his Euhantes to commit acts of debauchery except during carnival time and the principal feasts of the year, and then only after suppertime, after the setting of the sun, and not without his special and express permission.
— Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), Spaccio de la bestia trionfante First Dialogue, Part One
For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remember’d is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the Spring begins.
The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;
And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
And the oat is heard above the lyre,
And the hoofed heel of a satyr crushes
The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root.
And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night,
Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,
Follows with a dancing and fills with delight
The Mænad and the Bassarid;
And soft as lips that laugh and hide
The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
And screen from seeing and leave in sight
The god pursuing, the maiden hid.
The ivy falls with the Bacchanal’s hair
Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;
The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.
— Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909), Atalanta in Calydon
That night he had a terrible dream, if dream is the right word for a bodily and mental experience which did indeed overtake him during deepest sleep, in complete independence of his will and with complete sensuous vividness, but with no perception of himself as present and moving about in any space external to the events themselves; rather, the scene of the events was his own soul, and they irrupted into it from outside, violently defeating his resistance — a profound, intellectual resistance — as they passed through him, and leaving his whole being, the culture of a lifetime, devastated and destroyed.
It began with fear, fear and joy and a horrified curiosity about what was to come. It was night, and his senses were alert; for from far off a hubbub was approaching, an uproar, a compendium of noise, a clangor and blare and dull thundering, yells of exultation and a particular howl with a long-drawn-out u at the end — all of it permeated and dominated by a terrible sweet sound of flute music: by deep-warbling, infamously persistent, shamelessly clinging tones that bewitched the innermost heart. Yet he was aware of a word, an obscure word, but one that gave a name to what was coming: “the stranger-god!” There was a glow of smoky fire: in it he could see a mountain landscape, like the mountains round his summer home. And in fragmented light, from wooded heights, between tree trunks and mossy boulders, it came tumbling and whirling down: a human and animal swarm, a raging rout, flooding the slope with bodies, with flames, with tumult and frenzied dancing. Women, stumbling on the hide garments that fell too far about them from the waist, held up tambourines and moaned as they shook them above their thrown-back heads; they swung blazing torches, scattering the sparks, and brandishing naked daggers; they carried snakes with flickering tongues which they had seized in the middle of the body, or they bore up their own breasts in both hands, shrieking as they did so. Men with horns over their brows, hairy-skinned and girdled with pelts, bowed their necks and threw up their arms and thighs, clanging brazen cymbals and beating a furious tattoo on drums, while smooth-skinned boys prodded goats with leafy staves, clinging to their horns and yelling with delight as the leaping beasts dragged them along. And the god’s enthusiasts howled out the cry with the soft consonants and the long-drawn-out final u, sweet and wild both at once, like no cry that was ever heard: here it was raised, belled out into the air as by rutting stags, and there they threw it back with many voices, in ribald triumph, urging each other on with it to dancing and tossing of limbs, and never did it cease. But the deep, enticing flute music mingled irresistibly with everything. Was it not also enticing him, the dreamer who experienced all this while struggling not to, enticing him with shameless insistence to the feast and frenzy of the uttermost surrender? Great was his loathing, great his fear, honorable his effort of will to defend to the last what was his and protect it from the Stranger, against the enemy of the composed and dignified intellect. But the noise, the howling grew louder, with the echoing cliffs reiterating it: it increased beyond measure, swelled up to enrapturing madness. Odors besieged the mind, the pungent reek of the goats, the scent of panting bodies and an exhalation as of staling waters, with another smell, too, that was familiar: that of wounds and wandering disease. His heart throbbed to the drumbeats, his brain whirled, a fury seized him, a blindness, a dizzying lust, and his soul craved to join the round-dance of the god. The obscene symbol, wooden and gigantic, was uncovered and raised on high: and still more unbridled grew the howling of the rallying cry. With foaming mouths they raged, they roused each other with rude gestures and licentious hands, laughing and moaning they thrust the prods into each other’s flesh and licked the blood from each other’s limbs. But the dreamer now was with them and in them, he belonged to the Stranger-God. Yes, they were himself as they flung themselves, tearing and slaying, on the animals and devoured steaming gobbets of flesh, they were himself as an orgy of limitless coupling, in homage to the god, began on the trampled, mossy ground. And his very soul savored the lascivious delirium of annihilation.
Out of this dream the stricken man woke unnerved, shattered and powerlessly enslaved to the daemon-god …
– Thomas Mann, Death in Venice 1912
And just as Faust is embroiled in murderous happenings and reappears in changed form, so Picasso changes shape and reappears in the underworld form of the tragic Harlequin – a motif that runs through numerous paintings. It may be remarked in passing that Harlequin is an ancient chthonic god.
The descent into ancient times has been associated ever since Homer’s day with the Nekyia. Faust turns back to the crazy primitive world of the witches’ sabbath and to a chimerical vision of classical antiquity. Picasso conjures up crude, earthy shapes, grotesque and primitive, and resurrects the soullessness of ancient Pompeii in a cold, glittering light – even Giulio Romano could not have done worse! Seldom or never have I had a patient who did not go back to neolithic art forms or revel in evocations of Dionysian orgies. Harlequin wanders like Faust through all these forms, though sometimes nothing betrays his presence but his wine, his lute, or the bright lozenges of his jester’s costume. And what does he learn on his wild journey through man’s millennial history? What quintessence will he distil from this accumulation of rubbish and decay, from these half-born or aborted possibilities of form and colour? What symbol will appear as the final cause and meaning of all this. In view of the dazzling versatility of Picasso, one hardly dares to hazard a guess, so for the present I l would rather speak of what I have found in my patients’ material. The Nekyia is no aimless and purely destructive fall into the abyss, but a meaningful katabasis eis antron, a descent into the cave of initiation and secret knowledge. The journey through the psychic history of mankind has as its object the restoration of the whole man, by awakening the memories in the blood. The descent to the Mothers enabled Faust to raise up the sinfully whole human being – Paris united with Helen – that homo totus who was forgotten when contemporary man lost himself in one-sidedness. It is he who at all times of upheaval has caused the tremor of the upper world, and always will. This man stands opposed to the man of the present, because he is the one who ever is as he was, whereas the other is what he is only for the moment. With my patients, accordingly, the katabasis and katalysis are followed by a recognition of the bipolarity of human nature and of the necessity of conflicting pairs of opposites. After the symbols of madness experienced during the period of disintegration there follow images which represent the coming together of the opposites: light/dark, above/below, white/black, male/female, etc. In Picasso’s latest paintings, the motif of the union of opposites is seen very clearly in their direct juxtaposition. One painting (although traversed by numerous lines of fracture) even contains the conjunction of the light and dark anima. The strident, uncompromising, even brutal colours of the latest period reflect the tendency of the unconscious to master the conflict by violence (colour = feeling). This state of things in the psychic development of a patient is neither the end nor the goal. It represents only a broadening of his outlook, which now embraces the whole of man’s moral, bestial, and spiritual nature without as yet shaping it into a living unity. Picasso’s drame interieur has developed up to this last point before the denouement. As to the future Picasso, I would rather not try my hand at prophecy, for this inner adventure is a hazardous affair and can lead at any moment to a standstill or to a catastrophic bursting asunder of the conjoined opposites. Harlequin is a tragically ambiguous figure, even though – as the initiated may discern – he already bears on his costume the symbols of the next stage of development. He is indeed the hero who must pass through the perils of Hades, but will he succeed? That is a question I cannot answer. Harlequin gives me the creeps – he is too reminiscent of that ‘motley fellow, like a buffoon’ in Zarathustra, who jumped over the unsuspecting rope-dancer (another Pagliacci) and thereby brought about his death. Zarathustra then spoke the words that were to prove so horrifyingly true of Nietzsche himself: ‘Your soul will be dead even sooner than your body: fear nothing more than l.’ Who the buffoon is, is made plain as he cries out to the rope-dancer, his weaker alter ego: ‘To one better than yourself you bar the way’ He is the greater personality who bursts the shell, and this shell is sometimes – the brain.”
– Carl Gustav Jung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung 1932
O mightie sonne of Semele the faire
O Bacchus borne by Joue the God of might
O twise borne boye, who euer does and dare
Subdue all mortals with thy liquour wight
Who with thy power blinded hath the sight
To sume, to others thou the eares haue deaffed
From sume thou takes the taste, sume smelling right
Doeth lacke, sume touching, sume all fiue bereaued
Are of thee, the greate Alexandre craued
Thy mercie oft, our maistre poete now
Is warde by thee; we smaller then shall leaue it
To striue with thee. Then on his tombe I uowe
Shall be, Here lyis whome Bacchus by his wyne
Hath trapped first, and made him render sine.
– James VI, King of England, Ireland and Scotland (1566-1625) Sonnets 45.a
The villagers began to feel the spirit of Dionysos rising in their planting and harvesting. They quickly learned how to make wine, taking the hints Dionysos put in the vineyards to explain the process: a basket filled with grapes, a giant vat in which to press the grapes and rows of amphoras to hold the juice.
“Who is he?” asked the villagers over and over, as they sat together in the evenings, sipping their new drink awkwardly out of bowls and pitchers and horns.
One night, after arranging the display, Dionysos forgot his winecup. A host of potters descended upon it in the morning. They worked all that day and all the next to make enough copies to satisfy the demands of the village.
“Could he be a mortal or is he a … a …”
Though the countryfolk did not yet dare call the youth they glimpsed in the woodlands a god, they talked of his parentage in whispers. Only an immortal had such gifts as wine to bestow upon weary mortals. The villagers reproduced his cup many times over, in many sizes and colors, and considered these as sacred symbols of Dionysos. As the grapevines became more abundant and the wine more delicious, the men began to leave a winecup outside their cottages for this new protector, to honor him with the first juice of the harvest. This custom spread and gradually became a tradition, so that at harvest time a special high-handled cup would be taken down from the wall of every rustic’s cottage, filled with wine and left outside in gratitude to Dionysos.
“Good,” said Pan, drinking it all.
“Excellent,” agreed Silenos, cornering the last drop in the goblet Pan had discarded. “I think this village is the best so far …”
“Onward to the next,” said Dionysos.
– Penelope Proddow, The Spirit of Spring: A tale of the Greek god Dionysos 1970
On a slab of reality in the mind of Dionysos, where he held the history of his time, the ancient vital essence of his existence that did not begin with his conception in Semele but was only at that moment engaged in the dimension of mortals — on that plane did the god allow me access to him as companion. We would sit or float or swim in his god-haze, seeing from there the most beautiful landscape that was not land at all, being at once mountains and desert plains and rolling prairies of grass and serene ocean. It was there that Dionysos told me of his origin through the mixing of god and human, Zeus and Semele, daughter of Kadmos; of Hera’s outrage and of Zeus’striking Semele dead with a lightning bolt; of Zeus taking him, unformed, from the womb of his mother to the top of Mount Olympus, where he was carried to fruition in the thigh of the great god. He told how that was the story, anyway, though he had heard stories that contradicted that one.
“It makes little difference where my fetus found completion, Vlepo,” Dionysos said to me. “It matters only that I am.” He paused and regarded me. “I am here not simply because of the rumors spread by Kadmos through his daughters about my being a false god and no son of Zeus, but because –” He paused and held his forehead in his hand. “Can apathy produce an honest quest?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I did not understand the question.
“I am a god, Vlepo, but I will die. That makes me different from other gods.”
“I have known only one god, Dionysos, and he is you. What is your father like?” I asked.
“He is –” Dionysos paused. “He is costive.”
“It may be the trunk of his being. I don’t know. It would explain a lot.”
“Costive,” I repeat the word.
“Yes. Yet somehow infinite verb.”
“A puzzle,” I said.
“Death has no life for me, Vlepo,” Dionysos said sullenly. “We gods must face past, present, and future, at once and perpetually. This ceaseless exhibition, this terrible pageant requires much attention and none. And my death will offer no relief, for I must witness it over and over, just as I do all else. So, I reside eternally on a line of infinite points and finite bounds.”
My head nodded in space. “All the same,” I said. “How does one keep things straight?”
“One doesn’t, my friend, and in this there is a great pain, but pain is the true source, isn’t it? Is not torture the price for redemptive vision?” Dionysos sighed. “I must relive, for example, my birth, my mother’s death, my mother’s seduction, and every pain and lost feeling of my first breath. To compound it all, my recollection and time inhabit the same fissure of space, so all time before and after me exists for me, at all times. Is this difficult for your mind, Vlepo?”
– Perival Everett, Frenzy 1997
No hint of embarrassment was to be detected in that mellow voice. Was he perhaps, thought Alastair, cognisant of the strange mixture at table, and not disapproving? He was an officer of the Government, but he came of Jacobite stock. Was he not Stormont’s brother? . . . And Mr Kyd was deep in a discussion about horses with the gentleman in the Beaufort uniform. With every glass of claret the even rosiness of his face deepened, till he bloomed like the God of Wine himself–a Bacchus strictly sober, with very wide-awake eyes.
“Where is this magic country?”
“All around you–behind the brake, across the hedgerow, under the branches. Some can stretch a hand and touch it–to others it is a million miles away.”
“As a child I knew it,” said Alastair, laughing. “I called it Fairyland.”
Midwinter nodded. “Children are free of it, but their elders must earn admission. It is a safe land–at any rate it is secure from common perils.”
“But it has its own dangers?”
“It makes a man look into his heart, and he may find that in it which destroys him. Also it is ambition’s mortal foe. But if you walk in it you will come to Brightwell without obstruction, for the King’s writ does not run in the greenwood.”
“Whose is the law, then?” Alastair asked.
For answer Midwinter went to the window and flung it open. “My fiddle cannot speak except with free air about it,” he said. “If any drunken rustic is on the heath he will think the pixies are abroad.”
He picked up the violin which had been lying on the table behind him, and drew forth a slow broken music, which presently changed into a rhythmical air. At first it was like the twanging of fine wires in a wind, mingled with an echo of organ music heard over a valley full of tree-tops. It was tame and homely, yet with a childish inconsequence in it. Then it grew wilder, and though the organ notes remained it was an organ that had never sounded within church walls. The tune went with a steady rhythm, the rhythm of growing things in spring, of seasonal changes; but always ran the undercurrent of a leaping bacchanal madness, of long wild dances in bare places. The fiddle ceased on a soft note, and the fiddler fell to singing in a voice so low that the words and air only just rose above the pitch of silence. “Diana and her darling crew,” he sang.
“Diana and her darling crew
Will pluck your fingers fine,
And lead you forth right pleasantly
To drink the honey wine,–
To drink the honey wine, my dear,
And sup celestial air,
And dance as the young angels dance,
Ah, God, that I were there!”
“Hers is the law,” he said. “Diana, or as some say, Proserpina. Old folk call her the Queen of Elfhame. But over you and me, as baptized souls, she has no spell but persuasion. You can hear her weeping at midnight because her power is gone.”
Then his mood changed. He laid down the fiddle and shouted on Mother Jonnet to bring supper. Edom, too, was sent for, and during the meal was closely catechised. He bore it well, professing no undue honesty beyond a good servant’s, but stiff on his few modest scruples. When he heard Midwinter’s plans for him, he welcomed them, and begged that in the choice of a horse his precarious balance and round thighs might be charitably considered. Alastair returned him the letter and watched him fold it up with the others and shove it inside his waistcoat. A prolonged study of that mild, concerned, faintly humorous face convinced him that Edom Lowrie was neither fox nor goose. He retired to bed to dream of Mr Kyd’s jolly countenance, which had mysteriously acquired a very sharp nose.
– John Buchan, Midwinter 1923
As previously noted, Christ, like so many of the beliefs and rituals underpinning Christianity, is syncretistic with Dionysian forms and ceremonies. Indeed, during Europe’s Dark Ages, when literacy was the privileged right of the few, and the many spent their lives fighting tooth and nail against seemingly endless waves of invaders including the Franks, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Huns and Mongols, it was the Christian Church that preserved fragments of ancient Mystery rites which, in pagan fashion, had never been written down. In medieval Europe, the church did not attempt to hide this fact; rather it was exaggerated to the point of parody in such activities as the Midwinter Fool’s Mass, an undoubtedly entertaining spectacle followed by a feast:
Introibo ad Itare Bachi —
Ad eum qui letificat cor hominis …
Potemus. Aufer a nobis, quesumus, Bache,
Cuncta vestimenta nostram, ut ad taberna
poculorum nudis corporibis mereamur
introire. Per omnia pocula poculorum. Stramen.
(Let us go up to the altar of Bacchus —
to him who gives joy to man’s heart …
Let us drink. Take from us, we beseech thee, Bacchus,
all our clothes, that we may be worthy,
with naked bodies, to enter into the tavern. Unto us all, drink without end.)
– Rosemarie Taylor-Perry, The Midwinter Fool’s Mass from The God Who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited 2003
Little slender lad, lightning-engendered,
Grand master of magicians:
When pirates stole you at Icaria
Wild ivy gripped their rigging, every oar
Changed to a serpent, panthers held the poop,
A giant vine sprouted from the mast crotch
And overboard they plunged, the whey-faced crew!
– Robert Graves (1895-1985), Difficult Questions
From the Second Act.
CARDINAL. Upon my word! So you even revile God!
HANS. I should only be following in the footsteps of the prophets, if I did so. Luther says, “What prophets has not reviled God?”
CARDINAL. That’s because, oddly enough, he thinks himself a prophet. But you do not go so far, do you?
HANS. No, Your Eminence. Although a mind which is slightly unhinged may at times prophesy without being aware of it.
CARDINAL. You admit yourself that God’s ideas and ours cannot be the same. His ways are inscrutable.
HANS. If they are inscrutable, it is possible that he may punish what you call good and reward what you call evil.
CARDINAL. Are you not slightly drunk?
HANS. Bacchus is a god whom drunkards made in their own image. Does your Eminence know Dionysus? Do you know the Greek gods?
CARDINAL. I get them rather confused; there are so many!
HANS. There were many Greek gods, Your Eminence, and never an unbeliever. There is now one God and many unbelievers.
– Jean Cocteau, Bacchus from The Infernal Machine and other plays 1963
DUKE. To what conclusion have you come, Your Eminence?
CARDINAL. He entertained me.
BISHOP. Not me.
CARDINAL. And as regards his physical appearance, he merits our full support.
PROVOST MARSHAL. Your Eminence is too kind. I admit he looks quite handsome, but these Greek gods disgust me. The whole lot of them are on the devil’s side.
CARDINAL. They are no longer anything but images.
PROVOST MARSHAL. I should like to destroy them as Luther does our holy images.
CARDINAL. What does your Bishop think?
BISHOP. I am neither for nor against.
PROVOST MARSHAL. Tomorrow all candidates march around the square and the jury votes for one of them. Before you make your decision, gentlemen, think carefully about one thing. For many months past the young noblemen have been doing all they could to vie with each other in the magnificence of their attire. Our decision wall cause annoyance.
SYNDIC. Annoyance to whom? That’s what counts.
PROVOST MARSHAL. The rabble naturally hates the lords. But luxury inspires respect, even enthusiasm. It’s a funny thing but it’s true.
CARDINAL. Let us run the risk … I am not against it. Indeed it may prove illuminating. Try out the fool.
PROVOST MARSHAL. Nothing easier, it’s a secret ballot. It will be a last minute surprise. But perhaps before you consent to his nomination, you should be aware of the terms of the dangerous, the very dangerous liberties allowed by the wine harvest celebrations.
CARDINAL. Is that necessary?
PROVOST MARSHAL. I insist, Your Eminence, that our Bishop should let you know what is involved. I have underlined the most tricky conditions.
CARDINAL. Very well, my dear Bishop, read this document to us.
The Provost Marshal passes the papers to the Bishop.
BISHOP. Article XI. Bacchus shall hold these privileges from noon of one Sunday to noon of the following Sunday.
Article XII. On the second Sunday, an effigy of Bacchus shall be publicly burned; the effigy shall be clad in the costume worn by him in the festivities.
PROVOST MARSHAL. That’s the only difference compared with the Byzantine custom. There Bacchus himself was the burnt offering.
BISHOP, continuing to read. Article XIII. Bacchus shall choose his home as he will. It shall be given up to him entirely for the seven days of his reign, whatever may be the rank of its owner.
CARDINAL. What? The Bishop’s Palace?
BISHOP. The Bishop’s Palace if he wishes.
CARDINAL. Good gracious! Go on!
BISHOP, as he reads, the Cardinal now follows with lips and gestures. Article XVI. Every family in the city, rich or poor, must give him presents (clothes, materials, jewels, carriages). Each person must give up whatever he holds most dear and whatever costs him most to give up.
Article XIX. Bacchus shall have a guard of honor, consisting of fifteen archers and a captain, who will escort him wherever he goes and watch over him. The bodyguard will be entirely under his orders and no one else’s. They shall be chosen by the Provost Marshal from among the best soldiers of the garrison.
PROVOST MARSHAL. So be it.
BISHOP. Article XXII. Everyone, without distinction of rank or title, shall bow before him and call him “my lord.”His parents shall serve him on their bended knees.
Article XXVIII. Bacchus shall have the right of life and death over his fellow citizens.
Article XXX. Bacchus shall have the right to enter churches on horseback, even during Divine service.
Article XXXV. Bacchus shall have the right …
– Jean Cocteau, Bacchus from The Infernal Machine and other plays 1963
The custom around which the action of the play turns is an old Byzantine one. But in Byzantium when the chosen one was elected, he accepted his own doom. He was sacrificed on the seventh day. I am not sure whether a Dionysus was involved. The rather attenuated form of the custom survived in Switzerland until recently, at Vevey, I think at the time of the wine harvest. Ramuz told me about it and spoke of it as disastrous because the young men elected lost their heads over it and refused to go back to their formerly dull way of life. Naturally I envisaged the custom carried to its nth degree, when the whole show went beyond the limits of a masquerade. Bacchus shows the plight of youth seeking to find itself but not knowing which way to turn among the dogmas opposing it. This is what happens to Hans. In reply to Catholic comments, it is necessary to appreciate that the Pater Noster is said as by a child, that any seemingly subversive sentences are said by a “village idiot,” by a young heretic, or by a vulgar provost. It would be childish to impute them to me or to blame me for them.
– Jean Cocteau, note written after the first night of the play Bacchus which premiered at the Théâtre Marginy on December 20, 1951
Enter BACCHUS, in a chariot hung all with vine leaves and grapes, drawn by a goat, riding on a barrel with a truncheon in one hand and a bowl of wine in the other; two boys, Bacchanalians, with wreaths of ivy, red fiery faces, and swelled cheeks, with torches in one hand and bowls of wine in another; CUPID, with him, disarmed by JUPITER, BACCHUS comes to reconcile the goddess CYNTHIA and the god of love and to make a league with the house of love.
Come, boy, we’ll make you all friends,
with a bowl of nectar crowned to the brim.
By Venus’ apron strings, Bacchus, methinks
I am nobody now I am disarmed. I have a spite
To these squeamish ladies yet for disgracing me.
Would I had my arrows here!
Come, you’ll never leave your wrangling.
I think on my conscience some lawyer was thy father
and some scolding butterwife thy mother.
Thou woulds set all the world together by the ears
if thou hadst thy will.
Come, boy, submit yourself.
Bacchus, I am too stout to yield. Be thou my orator,
good Lyaeus, and I’ll walk by like a sheepbiter.
Oh, here is fine sport for these scornful ladies.
They will laugh me out of my skin.
Take courage, boy.
– Robert White, Cupid’s Banishment: A Maske Presented to Her Majesty by the young Gentlewomen of the Ladies Hall in Deptford at Greenwich the 4th of May 1617
Now as to the rites of Liber, whom they have set over liquid seeds, and therefore not only over the liquors of fruits, among which wine holds, so to speak, the primacy, but also over the seeds of animals:— as to these rites, I am unwilling to undertake to show to what excess of turpitude they had reached, because that would entail a lengthened discourse, though I am not unwilling to do so as a demonstration of the proud stupidity of those who practise them. Among other rites which I am compelled from the greatness of their number to omit, Varro says that in Italy, at the places where roads crossed each other the rites of Liber were celebrated with such unrestrained turpitude, that the private parts of a man were worshipped in his honor. Nor was this abomination transacted in secret that some regard at least might be paid to modesty, but was openly and wantonly displayed. For during the festival of Liber this obscene member, placed on a car, was carried with great honor, first over the crossroads in the country, and then into the city. But in the town of Lavinium a whole month was devoted to Liber alone, during the days of which all the people gave themselves up to the most dissolute conversation, until that member had been carried through the forum and brought to rest in its own place; on which unseemly member it was necessary that the most honorable matron should place a wreath in the presence of all the people. Thus, forsooth, was the god Liber to be appeased in order for the growth of seeds. Thus was enchantment to be driven away from fields, even by a matron’s being compelled to do in public what not even a harlot ought to be permitted to do in a theatre, if there were matrons among the spectators. For these reasons, then, Saturn alone was not believed to be sufficient for seeds—namely, that the impure mind might find occasions for multiplying the gods; and that, being righteously abandoned to uncleanness by the one true god, and being prostituted to the worship of many false gods, through an avidity for ever greater and greater uncleanness, it should call these sacrilegious rites sacred things, and should abandon itself to be violated and polluted by crowds of foul demons.
– Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), De civitate dei 7.21
Athens, U. S. Sixth Fleet
On a stone bench by an aisle
In the Theater of Dionysus
I make a flock of Greek kids smile
Sketching them Mickey Mouses
Where beery Aristophanes
By Sanction till midnight’s fall
Ribbed Eleusinian Mysteries
With queer-joke and pratfall.
From the sacked Parthenon on high
A bird serenely warbles.
Sellers of paperweights resell
The Elgin marbles.
Here where queen-betrayed
Agamemnon had to don
Wine-purple robes, boys in torn drabs
Try my whitehat on,
Over stones where Orestes fled
The gibber of the Furies
Girls hawking flyspecked postcards
Pursue the tourists.
Here in painted anguish-mask
Mourned her son — “Young man,
Aren’t you from Schenectady?”
As I trudge down, a pebble breaks
Rattling across stone tiers,
Scattering echoes. Did I kick
Some watcher’s skull downstairs?
Silence imponders back.
I take the stage, the pebble
Stilled on a lower tier.
Trailing home now, the child rabble.
I stand in the center of the stage,
Could speak, but the sun’s setting
In back of neon signs. Night unsheathes
Her chill blade. Better be going
Back to my radared bark —
No thresh of oars, sails with gods’ crests.
Does the wind stir in the dark
Or does a throng of ghosts?
I run. Inaudible laughter drives
Offstage my spirit
As in the parched grass, wind routs
A white shiver before it.
– X. J. Kennedy, The Theater of Dionysus from In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955-2007
When Abbot and his brethren sit to feast, they quickly pass the cups of wine along. The Abbot lifts the cup above his head and makes the rafters echo with this song:
“How lovely is the vessel of the Lord!
Behold the chalice of inebriation!
O Bacchus, be the master of our board!
O Son of the Vine, be always our salvation!”
Then lifting up his cup again, he asks:
“This chalice I am now about to sup,
can you too drink it?” Quickly all reply,
“We can! Just watch us! Bottoms up!”
The one thing that can spoil a pious feast is a dispute about who’s had the most. The abbey therefore has a simple rule: the limit is a cup per monk per toast.
A second popular decree is this: a zealous monk never leaves a drop. A third: since God abhors a vacuum, make sure your belly’s stuffed before you stop.
The drunken monks are like demoniacs, and chatter like a flock of noisy birds. Their conversation seldom makes much sense since Bacchus, the stomach’s master, teaches them their words. They chew and chew until their jaws puff out; their huge, distended guts are even worse, and as a final touch, the wine they swill provokes a swelling in the “nether purse.”
If only they knew etymology, the Abbot says, his critics would keep shut: for study shows that work derives from shirk and wine from fine, while good goes back to gut.
– Golias the Bishop, The Apocalypse ca. 12th century
Priests belong to Bacchus, a fact easy enough to prove. For presbyter is derived from bibo meaning “I drink” and ter or “triply” – showing their devotion to spirits and not letters. The priest has learned to sin with confidence, for he listens to confessions during Lent and when he finds out what the people do, decides that he has little to repent. The hateful, bloody man abhors his flock; he’d like to see them all go under grass. He’d rather have an ample whore in bed than eleven thousand virgins at mass. When mass is done the priest takes off his robes and finds a cheerful prostitute to plow; in this he’s just like Jupiter of old, who left Olympus to pursue a cow.
– Golias the Bishop, The Apocalypse ca. 12th century
Why do you, slow Winter, heap blame on the cuckoo
who lie stupid and foul in your shadowy caverns
after the revels of Venus and riots of Bacchus?
Riches are mine, gay feasting is mine,
sleep is sweet, the hearthside is warm.
Of these the cuckoo knows nothing,
but only makes mischief.
– Alcuin (735-804), The Strife Between Winter and Spring
Out a little distance from Rome, on the Appian Way […] is the temple of Bacchus. Converted from its pagan use, it is adorned with the fixtures of a Catholic church. There still remain about it the evidences of its former devotion to debauchery and crime. Retired from the highway, the old pleasure seekers came hither to enjoy a season of dissipation in the temple of the divinity who was supposed to look with pleasure upon their excesses. The building is rectangular, surrounded by marble columns; and Pope Urban, who converted it into a Catholic temple, spoiled half its beauty when he gave it to a religion as senseless and abhorrent as paganism itself.
– Daniel Clarke Eddy, Europa; or, Notes of a recent ramble through England, France, Italy and Switzerland 1852
Accordingly we find that in the dark ages the Pagan Messiah has not been brought into the Church in a mere clandestine manner. Openly and avowedly under his well known classic names of Bacchus and Dionysus has he been canonized and set up for the worship of the “faithful.” Yes Rome that professes to be pre-eminently the Bride Christ, the only Church in which salvation is to be found, has had the unblushing effrontery to give the grand Pagan adversary of the Son of God UNDER HIS OWN PROPER NAME, a place in her calendar. The reader has only to turn to the Roman calendar and he will find that this is a literal fact; he will find that October the 7th is set apart to be observed in honour of “St Bacchus the Martyr.” Now, no doubt, Bacchus was a “martyr;” he died a violent death; he lost his life for religion; but the religion for which he died was the religion of the fire-worshippers; for he was put to death as we have seen from Maimonides, for maintaining the worship of the host of heaven. This patron of the heavenly host and of fire-worship (for the two went always hand in hand together) has Rome canonized; for that this “St Bacchus the Martyr” was the identical Bacchus of the Pagans, the god of drunkenness and debauchery, is evident from the time of his festival; for October the 7th follows soon after the end of the vintage. At the end of the vintage in autumn the old Pagan Romans used to celebrate what was called the “Rustic Festival” of Bacchus and about that very time does the Papal festival of “St Bacchus the Martyr” occur. As the Chaldean god has been admitted into the Roman calendar under the name of Bacchus, so also is he canonized under his other name of Dionysus. The Pagans were in the habit of worshipping the same god under different names […] Now the Papacy in its excess of zeal for saints and saint-worship, has actually split Dionysus Eleuthereus into two, has made two several saints out of the double name of one Pagan divinity; and more than that has made the innocent epithet Rusticum which even among the heathen had no pretensions to divinity at all a third and so it comes to pass that under the date of October the 9th we read this entry in the calendar “The festival of St Dionysius and of his companions St Eleuther and St Rustic.” Now this Dionysius whom Popery has so marvellously furnished with two companions is the famed St Denys the patron saint of Paris; and a comparison of the history of the Popish saint and the Pagan god will cast no little light on the subject. St Denys, on being beheaded and cast into the Seine, so runs the legend, after floating a space on its waters, to the amazement of the spectators, took up his head in his hand and so marched away with it to the place of burial. In commemoration of so stupendous a miracle a hymn was duly chanted for many a century in the Cathedral of St Denys at Paris, containing the verse:
Se cadaver mox erexit,
Truncus truncum caput vexit,
Quem ferentem hoc direxit
The corpse immediately arose;
the trunk bore away the dissevered head,
guided on its way by a legion of angels.
At last, even Papist began to be ashamed of such an absurdity being celebrated in the name of religion; and in 1789, “the office of St. Denys” was abolished. Behold, however, the march of events. The world has for some time past been progressing back again to the dark ages. The Romish Breviary, which had been given up in France, has, within the last six years, been reimposed by Papal authority on the Gallican Church, with all its lying legends, and this among the rest of them; the Cathedral of St. Denys is again being rebuild, and the old worship bids fair to be restored in all its grossness. Now, how could it ever enter the minds of men to invent so monstrous a fable? The origin of it is not far to seek. The Church of Rome represented her canonised saints, who were said to have suffered martyrdom by the sword, as headless images or statues with the severed head borne in the hand. “I have seen,” says Eusebe Salverte, “in a church of Normandy, St. Clair; St. Mithra, at Arles, in Switzerland, all the soldiers of the Theban legion represented with their heads in their hands. St. Valerius is thus figured at Limoges, on the gates of the cathedral, and other monuments. The grand seal of the canton of Zurich represents, in the same attitude, St. Felix, St. Regula, and St. Exsuperantius. There certainly is the origin of the pious fable which is told of these martyrs, such as St. Denys and many others besides.” This was the immediate origin of the story of the dead saint rising up and marching away with his head in his hand. But it turns out that this very mode of representation was borrowed from Paganism, and borrowed in such a way as identifies the Papal St. Denys of Paris with the Pagan Dionysus, not only of Rome but of Babylon. Dionysus or Bacchus, in one of his transformations, was represented as Capricorn, the “goat-horned fish;” and there is reason to believe that it was in this very form that he had the name of Oannes. In this form in India, under the name “Souro,” that is evidently “the seed,” he is said to have done many marvellous things. Now, in the Persian Sphere he was not only represented mystically as Capricorn, but also in the human shape; and then exactly as St. Denys is represented by the Papacy. The words of the ancient writer who describes this figure in the Persian Sphere are these: “Capricorn, the third Decan. The half of the figure without a head, because its head is in its hand.” Nimrod had his head cut off; and in commemoration of that fact, which his worshipers so piteously bewailed, his image in the Sphere was so represented. That dissevered head, in some of the versions of his story, was fabled to have done as marvellous things as any that were done by the lifeless trunk of St. Denys. Bryant has proved, in this story of Orpheus, that it is just a slightly-coloured variety of the story of Osiris. As Osiris was cut in pieces in Egypt, so Orpheus was torn in pieces in Thrace. Now, when the mangled limbs of the latter had been strewn about the field, his head, floating on the Hebrus, have proof of the miraculous character of him that owned it. “Then,” says Virgil:–
“Then, when his head from his fair shoulders torn,
Washed by the waters, was on Hebrus borne,
Even then his trembling voice invoked his bride,
With his last voice, “Eurydice,’ he cried;
‘Eurydice, the rocks and river banks replied.”
There is diversity here, but amidst that diversity there is an obvious unity. In both cases, the head dissevered from the lifeless body occupies the foreground of the picture; in both cases, the miracle is in connection with a river. Now, when the festivals of “St. Bacchus the Martyr,” and of “St. Dionysius and Eleuther,” so remarkably agree with the time when the festivals of the Pagan god of wine were celebrated, whether by the name of Bacchus, or Dionysus, or Eleuthereus, and when the mode of representing the modern Dionysius and the ancient Dionysus are evidently the very same, while the legends of both so strikingly harmonise, who can doubt the real character of those Romish festivals? They are not Christian. They are Pagan; they are unequivocally Babylonian.
– Alexander Hislop (1806-1865), The Two Babylons: Papal worship Revealed to be the worship of Nimrod and His wife pgs 176-180
Drunkards are daughters of idolatry, whose stomach is their god. They are worshipers of Bacchus, thus we describe them as guilty of the sin of bacchilatria.
– Alanus ab Insulis (1128-1202), The Art of Preaching
Often misunderstood, Dionysus is far more than a wine deity. He is the Breaker of Chains, who rescues not only the flesh but the heart and spirit from too much of worldly regulations and duties. He is a god of joy and freedom. Any uncultivated, tangled, and primal woodland is very much his domain.
– Tanith Lee, Among the Leaves So Green from The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest 2002
This vine which, ever fruitful with many bunches of grapes, has a habit of never disappointing its owner’s prayers, is now consecrated, even now in its abundant prime, by the vine-dresser to thee, Bacchus. May thou, o god, ensure that this vine of yours disappoints not our hope and that the whole vineyard will fructify after its example.
– Andrea Navagero (1483-1529) Prayer of the Vine-dresser from Lusus
The wounds are not the mutilations among the Romans; when you are drinking together with Bacchus, Veles has them (already) carried away.
– The Spada di Verona transcribed by Ludovico Moscardo in 1672
[Another possible translation is: War and mutilation are to the Romans and the fury is to their god Bacchus, Veles is with us.]
[The Song of the Vineyard Knife] is Marot’s best—even though many of his native critics will not admit it so; but to feel it in full one must be exiled from the vines. It is a tapestry of the Renaissance; the jolly gods of the Renaissance, the old gods grown Catholic moving across a happier stage. Bacchus in long robes and with solemnity blessing the vine, Silenus and the hobbling smith who smithied the Serpe, the Holy Vineyard Knife in heaven, all these by their diction and their flavour recall the Autumn in Herault and the grapes under a pure sky, pale at the horizon, and labourers and their carts in the vineyard, and these set in the frame of that great time when Saturn did return. All the poem is wine. It catches its rhymes and weaves them in and in, and moves rapid and careless in a fugue, like the march from Asia when the Panthers went before and drew the car. The internal rhythm and pulse is the clapping of hands in barns at evening and the peasants’ feet dancing freely on the beaten earth. It is a very good song; it remembers the treading of the grapes and is refreshed by the mists that rise at evening when the labour is done.
– Hilaire Belloc, Avril: Being Essays on the Poetry of the French Renaissance p. 111 1904