Herakleitos, Fragments 76-77 (535-475 BCE)
… they roam together – the night-walkers, the magicians, the Bakchai, the Lenai, the participants in mysteries full of unholy rites. Their processions and phallic hymns would be disgraceful exhibitions if it wasn’t for the fact that they are done in honor of Dionysos – that Dionysos who is the same as Haides; it is in his honor that they rave madly and hold their revels.
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.
Sophokles, Choral Ode from Antigone (496-406 BCE)
Surrounded by the light of torches,
he stands high on the twin summits of Parnassos,
while the Corycian nymphs dance around as Bacchantes,
and the waters of Castalia sound from the depths below.
Up there in the snow and winter darkness Dionysos rules in the long night,
while troops of maenads swarm around him,
himself the choir leader for the dance of the fire-breathing stars
and quick of hearing for every sound of the night.
Herodotus, Histories 8.65.1-2 (484-425 BCE)
Dicaeus son of Theocydes, an Athenian exile who had become important among the Medes, said that at the time when the land of Attica was being laid waste by Xerxes’ army and there were no Athenians in the country, he was with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian on the Thriasian plain and saw advancing from Eleusis a cloud of dust as if raised by the feet of about thirty thousand men. They marvelled at what men might be raising such a cloud of dust and immediately heard a cry. The cry seemed to be the “Iacchus” of the mysteries, and when Demaratus, ignorant of the rites of Eleusis, asked him what was making this sound, Dicaeus said, “Demaratus, there is no way that some great disaster will not befall the king’s army. Since Attica is deserted, it is obvious that this voice is divine and comes from Eleusis to help the Athenians and their allies.”
Euripides, Fragment from The Cretans (480-406 BCE)
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.
Euripides, The Bakchai 172-210 (480-406 BCE)
He’s welcome in the mountains,
when he sinks down to the ground,
after the running dance,
wrapped in holy deerskin,
hunting the goat’s blood,
blood of the slain beast,
devouring its raw flesh with joy,
rushing off into the mountains,
in Phrygia, in Lydia,
leading the dance—
He holds the torch high,
our leader, the Bacchic One,
blazing flame of pine,
sweet smoke like Syrian incense,
trailing from his thyrsos.
As he dances, he runs,
here and there,
rousing the stragglers,
stirring them with his cries,
thick hair rippling in the breeze.
among the Maenads’ shouts
his voice reverberates:
“On Bacchants, on!
Chant songs to Dionysos,
to the loud beat of our drums.
Celebrate the god of joy
with your own joy,
with Phrygian cries and shouts!
When sweet sacred pipes
play out their rhythmic holy song,
in time to the dancing wanderers,
then to the mountains,
on, on to the mountains.”
Euripides, The Bakchai 822-827; 905-943 (480-406 BCE)
I saw those women in their Bacchic revels,
those sacred screamers, all driven crazy,
the ones who run barefoot from their homes.
I came, my lord, to tell you and the city
the dreadful things they’re doing, their actions
are beyond all wonder.
But then those Bacchic women, all unarmed,
went at the heifers browsing on the turf,
using their bare hands. You should have seen one
ripping a fat, young, lowing calf apart—
others tearing cows in pieces with their hands.
You could’ve seen ribs and cloven hooves
tossed everywhere—some hung up in branches
dripping blood and gore. And bulls, proud beasts till then,
with angry horns, collapsed there on the ground,
dragged down by the hands of a thousand girls.
Hides covering their bodies were stripped off
faster than you could wink your royal eye.
Then, like birds carried up by their own speed,
they rushed along the lower level ground,
beside Asopos’ streams, that fertile land
which yields its crops to Thebes. Like fighting troops,
they raided Hysiae and Erythrae,
below rocky Cithaeron, smashing
everything, snatching children from their homes.
Whatever they carried their shoulders,
even bronze or iron, never tumbled off
onto the dark earth, though nothing was tied down.
They carried fire in their hair, but those flames
never singed them. Some of the villagers,
enraged at being plundered by the Bacchae,
seized weapons. The sight of what happened next,
my lord, was dreadful. For their pointed spears
did not draw blood. But when those women
threw the thrysoi in their hands, they wounded them
and drove them back in flight. The women did this
to men, but not without some god’s assistance.
Then they went back to where they’d started from,
those fountains which the god had made for them.
They washed off the blood. Snakes licked their cheeks,
cleansing their skin of every drop. My lord,
you must welcome this god into our city,
whoever he is. He’s a mighty god
in many other ways.
Plutarch, Life of Antony 75 (46-120 CE)
During this night, it is said, about the middle of it, while the city was quiet and depressed through fear and expectation of what was coming, suddenly certain harmonious sounds from all sorts of instruments were heard, and the shouting of a throng which none could see, accompanied by cries of Bacchic revelry and satyric leapings, as if a troop of revelers, making a great tumult, were going forth from the city; and their course seemed to lie about through the middle of it toward the outer gate which faced the enemy, at which point the tumult became loudest and then dashed out.
Oppian, Cynegetica 255ff (3rd century CE)
And, when Dionysos was now come to boyhood, he played with the other children; he would cut a fennel stalk and smite the hard rocks, and from their wounds they poured for the god sweet liquor. Otherwhiles he rent rams, skins and all, and clove them piecemeal and cast the dead bodies on the ground; and again with his hands he neatly put the limbs together, and immediately they were alive and browsed on the green pasture. And now he was attended by holy companies, and over all the earth were spread the gifts of Dionysos, son of Thyone, and everywhere he went about showing his excellence to men.
Proklos’ Commentary on Timaios 3.262f (412-485 CE)
For about the god there are more partial gods; daimones proceeding together with or being the guards and attendants of the god; and the elevated and magnificent army of heroes, repressing in advance all the disorder arising from matter.
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 192.24 (468-542 CE)
During the Kalends of January wretched men, and worse yet, even some who are baptized, don false appearances, monstrous disguises, in which I know not whether they are primarily laughingstocks or rather objects of sorrow. What sensible person indeed could believe that he would find sane people who deliberately transform themselves into the state of wild beasts while playing the stag. Some are clothed in the hide of beasts, others don animal headdresses, rejoicing and exulting if thus they have changed themselves into the likeness of beasts so as not to appear to be men. Now truly, what is this! How vile! That those who are born men dress in women’s clothing and, by the vilest of perversion, sap their manly strength to resemble girls, not blushing to clothe their soldier’s muscles in women’s gowns: they flaunt their bearded faces, and they aim to look just like women. There are those who observe omens during the Kalends of January by refusing to give fire from their house or any other goods to anyone, no matter who asks; yet they accept diabolical gifts from others and give them to others themselves. That night, moreover, some rustics arrange little tables with the many things necessary for eating; they intend that the tables remain arranged like this throughout the night, for they believe that the Kalends of January can do this for them, that throughout the entire year they will continue to hold their feasts amid plenty. I command your household to get rid of these and other practices like them, which would take too long to describe, which are thought by ignorant people to be trifling sins, or none at all; and command your household to observe the Kalends as they do the Kalends of other months. And therefore the saintly fathers of ancient days, considering how most of mankind spent those days in gluttony and lechery, going mad with drunkenness and sacrilegious dancing, ordained throughout the whole world that all the churches should proclaim a public fast, so that wretched men might know that the evil that they brought upon themselves was so great that all the churches are obliged to fast for their sins. In fact, let no one doubt that anyone who shows any kindness to foolish men who lewdly indulging in amusements during those Kalends is himself a sharer of their sins.
The Council of Trullo, Canon 62 (7th century CE)
The so-called Kalends, and what are called Bota and Brumalia, and the full assembly which takes place on the first of March, we wish to be abolished from the life of the faithful. And also the public dances of women, which may do so much harm and mischief. Moreover we drive away from the life of Christians the dances given in the names of those falsely called gods by the Greeks whether of men or women, and which are preformed after an ancient and un-Christian fashion; decreeing that no man from this time forth shall be dressed as a woman, nor any woman in the garb suitable to men. Nor shall he assume comic, satyric, or tragic masks; nor may men invoke the name of the execrable Bacchus when they squeeze out the wine in the presses; nor when pouring out wine into jars [to cause a laugh], practicing in ignorance and vanity the things which proceed from the deceit of insanity. Therefore those who in the future attempt any of these things which are written, having obtained knowledge of them, if they be clerics we order them to be deposed, and if laymen to be cut off.
Photios s.v. polluted days (810-893 CE)
On the day of the festival of Dionysos during the month of Anthesterion the souls of the departed come up.
Photios s.v. that from the wagons (810-893 CE)
This is about those mocking openly. For in Athens at the festival of the Khoes those reveling on the wagons mocked and reviled those they met and they did the same also at the Lenaia.
Etymologicum Gudianum s.v. Zagreus (ca. 10th century CE)
The one who greatly hunts, as the writer of the Alcmeonis said Mistress Earth, and Zagreus highest of all the gods. That is, Dionysos.
Richard of St.-Victor, Sermones centum 177.1036 (12th century CE)
What wickedness takes place during this feast; fortune-tellings, divinations, deceptions and feigned madnesses. On this day, having been seized up by the furies of their bacchant-like ravings and having been inflamed by the fires of diabolical instigation, they flock together to the church and profane the house of god with vain and foolish rhythmic poetry in which sin is not wanting but by all means present, and with evil sayings, laughing and cacophony they disrupt the priest and the whole congregation applauds for the people love these things.
Angelo Poliziano, Fabula Di Orfeo Scene 5 (1480 CE)
Ho! Bacchus! Ho! I yield thee thanks for this!
Through all the woodland we the wretch have borne:
So that each root is slaked with blood of his:
Yea, limb from limb his body have we torn
Through the wild forest with a fearful bliss:
His gore hath bathed the earth by ash and thorn!—
Go then! thy blame on lawful wedlock fling!
Ho! Bacchus! take the victim that we bring!
Record of the interrogation of the barbes Martino and Pietro (1492)
Asked why the said synagogue is held, he replies that it derives from the fact that they as a custom were in the habit of adoring a certain idol called Bacchus and Baron and also the Sibyl and the Fairies and that Baron and the Fairies were accustomed to holding congregations during which there was no respect between daughter and father, nor with the godmother, as there is, however, outside the said synagogue. And in the synagogue, by night, when the candle was out, they mixed and each took the woman he could have, without recognising her and without speaking while the synagogue lasted; and if a son was begotten, he was the most appropriate and apt to exercise the office of barbe; and he said other things, that his companion had previously said.
Luís Vaz de Camões, Os Lusíadas Book Eight (1524-1580 CE)
So, lower’d the night, the sullen howl the same,
And, ’mid the black-wing’d gloom, stern Bacchus came;
The form, and garb of Hagar’s son he took,
The ghost-like aspect, and the threat’ning look.
Andrew Tooke, The Pantheon representing the Fabulous Histories of the Heathen Gods and Most Illustrious Heroes (1713 CE)
That is no wonder; for ’tis Bacchus himself, the god of wine, and the captain and emperor of drunkards. He is crown’d with ivy and vine leaves. He has a thyrsus instead of a scepter; that is, a javelin with an iron head, encircled by ivy or vine leaves in his hand. He is carried in a chariot, sometimes drawn by tigers and lions and sometimes by lynxes and panthers. And like a king he has his guards, who are a drunken band of satyrs, demons, nymphs that preside over the wine presses, fairies of the fountains and priestesses. Silenus sometimes comes after him sitting on an ass that bends under his burden.
Heinrich Heine, Die Götter im Exil (1854 CE)
Silenus, whom the merry maids had raised upon an ass, rode along, holding a golden goblet, which was constantly filled for him. Slowly he advanced, while behind whirled in mad eddies the reckless troop of vine-clad revelers. You, reader, who are well educated and familiar with descriptions of Bacchanalian orgies or festivals of Dionysos, would not have been astonished by this. At the utmost, you would only feel a slightly licentious thrill at seeing this assembly of delightful phantoms rise from their sarcophagi to again renew their ancient and festive rites, all rioting, reveling, hurrahing Evöe Bacche!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Prose Hymn to Dionysus from The Birth of Tragedy (1872 CE)
If we add to this horror the ecstatic rapture, which rises up out of the same collapse of the principium individuationis from the innermost depths of human beings, yes, from the innermost depths of nature, then we have a glimpse into the essence of the Dionysian, which is presented to us most closely through the analogy to intoxication.
Either through the influence of narcotic drink, of which all primitive men and peoples speak, or through the powerful coming on of spring, which drives joyfully through all of nature, that Dionysian excitement arises. As its power increases, the subjective fades into complete forgetfulness of self. In the German Middle Ages under the same power of Dionysus constantly growing hordes waltzed from place to place, singing and dancing. In that St. John’s and St. Vitus’s dancing we recognize the Bacchic chorus of the Greeks once again, and its precursors in Asia Minor, right back to Babylon and the orgiastic Sacaea.
There are men who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly away from such phenomena as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health and filled with pity. These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “Health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them. Under the magic of the Dionysian, not only does the bond between man and man lock itself in place once more, but also nature itself, no matter how alienated, hostile, or subjugated, rejoices again in her festival of reconciliation with her prodigal son, man. The earth freely offers up her gifts, and the beasts of prey from the rocks and the desert approach in peace. The wagon of Dionysus is covered with flowers and wreaths. Under his yolk stride panthers and tigers.
If someone were to transform Beethoven’s Ode to Joy into a painting and not restrain his imagination when millions of people sink dramatically into the dust, then we could come close to the Dionysian. Now is the slave a free man, now all the stiff, hostile barriers break apart, those things which necessity and arbitrary power or “saucy fashion” have established between men. Now, with the gospel of world harmony, every man feels himself not only united with his neighbour, reconciled and fused together, but also as if the veil of Maya has been ripped apart, with only scraps fluttering around before the mysterious original unity. Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher unity. He has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances. The enchantment speaks out in his gestures. Just as the animals speak and the earth gives milk and honey, so now something supernatural echoes out of him. He feels himself a god. He now moves in a lofty ecstasy, as he saw the gods move in his dream. The man is no longer an artist. He has become a work of art. The artistic power of all of nature, the rhapsodic satisfaction of the primordial unity, reveals itself here in the intoxicated performance. The finest clay, the most expensive marble — man — is here worked and chiseled, and the cry of the Eleusianian mysteries rings out to the chisel blows of the Dionysian world artist: “Do you fall down, you millions? World, do you have a sense of your creator?”
Ángelos Sikelianós, Greek Supper for the Dead (1884-1951 CE)
Tell me, who was it took such careful pains
over this meal, or like a hierophant
stood over it and so adorned it that
it even now seems meant to be Pluto’s sacred portion
or the entowered lonely Supper for the Dead
and where deep in the thoughts of each before it
the rites of their memorial service glow?
For as upon an ear of wheat a host
of winged ants falls, so have the the souls of all
the dead who wake within our hearts enclosed
this feast, those souls of men whose steps and shapes
we and the eternal night still deeply hold
within us, as in silence once they climbed
above the rocks and beyond the high lookouts
of death to drink deep at the wells of courage.
But numberless other ancient spirits now,
numerous other souls that fill the night
are swarming still, I feel, from every corner,
drawn by the fervor of our silent hearts,
like moths attracted to the candle’s flame,
until the dead by far outnumber the living.
O let them come here even to us, O friends,
to spread invisibly their open hands
over this feast of Pluto’s, let them come
to this entowered Supper for the Dead,
even here among us, and with us be one.
And with this glass you gave me, friend,
filled to the brim, wherein now if I bend
I see my face as if reflected from out
another world, and with this wine you brought me,
fragrant and brusque as the blood of Dionysos spilled,
let us like the Initiates of old,
from the great goblet of Agathodaemon
drink as from rites of holy sacrament,
and keep a silence profound until that time
(may it not be far off, my friends) when all
the powers of god shall suddenly begin
to groan with us deeply, when his roars,
louder than sound of earthquake, shall rouse up
living and dead together in full array
for the divine onslaught … And as for the new
and flaming songs that you now long to hear
rise to my lips, they too shall come, my friends,
in their own good time.”
and whether or not they had well understood
all I had sought, they sipped of the wine,
and I, the last of all,
drank to the last drop also, like the priest
who drains the holy chalice in the Inner Sanctum;
and then together as one we softly turned our steps
– the candles one by one had guttered out –
toward the wide-open windows, beyond which lay
the black enstarred vast ocean of night
that on its pulse upheld us in our silence.
And if no one within that darkness spoke,
from deep within us the same thought and vow
rose upward toward the vast gloom and the stars:
“Hearken, divine protector, O Dionysos-Hades,
restrain our hearts now with the brusque black wine
of your deep pain, guard them and strengthen them
and keep them still untouched until that hour
when suddenly your cry, louder than roar
of earthquake, shall rouse up living and dead
together with us at once to the divine onslaught!”
Charles Godfrey Leland, The Wonderful Conjuration of Bacchus from Legends of Florence; Second Volume (1907 CE) pages 169-174
There was once a certain Friar Geronimo, unto whom a marvelous thing happened; for as he was hastening along to a meeting at the Cloister of San Lorenzo he stumbled over a little old book or ancient manuscript, which he picked up and put in his pocket. During the course of the proceedings, which were extremely long-winded and boring, Friar Geronimo recalled the book, took it out and began to read. Like peasants and children who have not yet mastered their lessons, Geronimo was in the habit of moving his lips and pronouncing aloud the syllables as he read. As it turned out the book was the sort of thing that wizard-jugglers used in the course of performing their audacious tricks and summoning of devils, and as the good friar read aloud a conjuration, strange things began to happen – all the men of the assembly grew horns on their heads! It also caused their ears to shoot forth like those of fauns or jackasses, according to their temperaments, with the asses’ ears in the majority. It made the hair of the abbesses and mother superiors grow forth luxuriantly as well. Indeed, it improved the good looks of the assembly to an extraordinary degree – saving the horns and ears. Withered old abbots became rosy, plump and handsome fellows; thin ascetics lusty as facchini or porters; while the eyes of all grew large and startling, wild or languishing. It was a wondrous change for all, indeed!
It took a while for everyone to notice, whereupon the Friar continued to read out the spell:
All ye who hear my voice,
be merry and rejoice!
Laugh and shout as in a revel!
All be merry, raise the devil;
all be jolly, la, la, la,
with ho! ho! ho! and ha! ha! ha!
Whereupon all present obeyed the instructions to the letter. They began to laugh and dance, and with one accord burst out into a mad, irregular song:
Bacco! Bacco! Bacco!
Padre dei Farraini e dei Folletti!
Dio del vino divino!
Che porti sempre nella mano la pina,
Fate le belle corne crescere,
Sulle teste di tutti qui i presenti!
Fate le orecchie lunge,
Come le orecchie degli asini!
Fate di noi Baccanti,
Tutto in tuo onore,
Bacco! Evviva Bacco!
Bacchus, Bacchus, Bacchus hear!
Father of Fairies and Goblins queer,
God of the wine divine
Which trickles from the vine,
Who bear’st the pine-cone in thy hand,
Great Lord adored in every land!
Make the merry horns appear
On the heads of all assembled here;
Make their ears like asses’ grow,
Make us all Bacchanti. Ho!
In thy honour let it be
Bacchus, O Bacchus, Evöe!
The Friar, as if inspired, read on at the top of his voice; and all the dancers sang to a wild music which came from — the devil knows where:
L’un sopra l’altro saltiamo!
E il diavolo facciamo!
Nel sacco il dolòr mettiamo!
Bacco! Bacco! Bacco!
Tutto in tup onore!
Quando Bacco trionfa
Il dolore fugge via.
Buon amore e buon vino
Mi scalda il mio cammino,
Beviamo il buon vino
Lascia andar l’acqua al mulino!
Il vino ha il sapore,
La bella donna ha il colore,
Facciamo tutti l’amore!
Uomo chi non ama vino,
Non vale un quattrino:
Bacco! Bacco! Bacco!
Evviva! Evviva il dio!
Con gioia faremmo il diavolo!
Mettiamo il dolor in sacco
Bacco! Bacco! Evviva Baccho!
Let’s be merry! Let us dance,
Hop and skip, and whoop and prance!
O’er one another jump and revel
Till we raise the very devil!
Away with sorrow and despair,
Follow us no more, dull care!
Let no grim blue devils track us
While we worship jolly Bacchus!
When he triumphs all is gay,
And affliction flies away,
Love and Laughter, jest and song,
All make light the way so long;
Drink good wine and take your fill!
Let the water turn the mill!
Wine is rosy that is true,
Pretty girls are rosy too;
Let us all make love and true.
He who loves not girls and wine
Is a fool and superfine.
Bacchus! Bacchus! Holy Bacchus!
Let no fear attack us!
Bacchus! Bacchus! Aid the revel!
Let us raise the very devil!
Send all care and grief away,
Bacchus! O Bacchus! Evöe!
And the merriment grew wilder; goblins came dancing in, bearing great flasks of wine, with wreaths of roses and much ivy; the revelers cast away their gowns and stoles and clad themselves with garlands — se le misero in capo e sene formarono delle cinture — crowning and girdling themselves with leaves; laughing, dancing, and shouting more wildly every minute.
The Bishop became mighty – yea, a magnificent man, with curling locks, drinking lustily from a tremendous vase of wine, while the arms of a beautiful abbess encircled his neck.
His attendant, who was short and plump, grew even plumper and jollier, crying aloud, ‘Io sono il Silenzio!‘ And there came in an ass all garlanded with flowers, and the attendant, Silenzio, mounted the ass, supported by wild and merry girls. And so he rode around the hall, following the Bishop; and after him came the rest in a reveling procession, embracing, kissing, making love, drinking, dancing, shouting – facendo il diavolo e peggio! — and singing:
Evviva Bacco, ha Bacco si,
Da Martedi a Lunedi!
“Hurrah for Bacchus, that is right,
from Sunday morn till Saturday night!”
So they kept it up all day and night, and none could enter the hall or leave it, for the doors seemed to be changed to a wall. But at last the brave Geronimo – who had not missed the opportunity, I assure you, to share in the lovemaking and drinking and dancing – began to think how all this revelry he had begun might be brought to an end. He went back to the book and eventually found the counter-spell and read it aloud. As soon as Geronimo finished a change came over all and everything; ’twas like the waking from a wondrous dream. All were silent in an instant – the horns and long ears vanished – gone were the garlands, ivy, roses, vines – yea, even the donkey faded into air. And in that instant they all forgot everything – what they had seen, and what they had been, and how they had behaved. All that they knew was that they were awfully tired of a long day’s hard work, and so went to bed early. All forgot, except for Geronimo that is who laughed heartily and kept the secret, deciding to become a Wizard instead of a Friar.
Singular as it may seem – for the story as I have told it probably seems to every reader a piece of modern manufacture – this tale is widely spread, and the embroidery which I have added to it has been very slight. Other legends give us souvenirs of Bacchanalia, as for instance, the procession in which Venus restores the ring to a youth, and the story of the Bacchanals and Bacchus which still haunt Florence. In fact, there is very little indeed given here which is not found in other traditions. It is worth noting that many writers on occulta, even to the seventeenth century, believe that common jugglers and mountebanks, or legerdemainists, executed their marvelous tricks by the aid of sorcery and the devil. This was not, however, regarded as quite so bad as witchcraft.
“Truly,” adds Flaxius, “there is something touching in the manner in which chroniclers and tellers of old tales recall these little memories of jolly heathen gambollings, rollicking and frolicking, revels, dances, rompings, love-makings, kiss-n-the-rings, and similar jolly, harmless didoes, as if they who were in them had raised the very devil of Iniquity himself, and like Moses, broken all the commandments at once, when, pardy, they were rather acting piously and doing their duty — if innocent enjoyment be such, and a stimulus to honest labour and kindly feeling. For in all this tale there is not one word said that any of the revelers smote or cursed or reviled the rest, or did them wrong in any way — which thing is so unlike the proceedings of all Church councils that it is probably the reason why the Bacchic revel was recorded as unholy.”
Pandeís Prevelákis, Barcarole (1909-1986 CE)
The waves rock me in a cradle,
the Dionysian festival of flowers
is being celebrated in the heavens,
and the stars are falling.
The mind no longer inquires, it dances
enwreathed with night as with ivy.
I am free at last, and I am alone
like a saint bound naked to the wheel
who in his nostrils feels
the myrrh of Paradise.
The planks of my boat creak
and by its side the constellations sparkle.
If you are not worthy, you will die.
Keep vigil! The celestial system is crumbling,
its harmony was unbearable.
Keep vigil! The land has let loose
her dogs upon me.
Constantine P. Cavafy, The God Abandons Antony (1911 CE)
When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.
Philip K. Dick, VALIS (1981 CE) pages 165-166
The gentle sounds of the choir singing ‘Amen, amen’ are not to calm the congregation but to pacify the god. When you know this you have penetrated to the innermost core of religion. And the worst part is that the god can thrust himself outward and into the congregation until he becomes them. You worship a god and then he pays you back by taking you over. This is called enthousiasmos in Greek, literally ‘to be possessed by the god.’ Of all the Greek gods the one most likely to do this was Dionysos. And, unfortunately, Dionysos was insane. Put another way – stated backward – if your god takes you over, it is likely that no matter what name he goes by he is actually a form of the mad god Dionysos. He was also the god of intoxication, which may mean, literally, to take in toxins; that is to say, to take a poison. The danger is there. If you sense this, you try to run. But if you run he has you anyhow, for the demigod Pan was the basis of panic which is the uncontrollable urge to flee, and Pan is a subform of Dionysos. So in trying to flee from Dionysos you are taken over anyhow. I write this literally with a heavy hand; I am so weary I am dropping as I sit here. What happened at Jonestown was the mass running of panic, inspired by the mad god – panic leading into death, the logical outcome of the mad god’s thrust. For them no way out existed. You must be taken over by the mad god to understand this, that once it happens there is no way out, because the mad god is everywhere. It is not reasonable for nine hundred people to collude in their own deaths and the deaths of little children, but the mad god is not logical, not as we understand the term. When we reached the Lamptons’ home we found it to be a stately old farm mansion, set in the middle of grape vines; after all, this is wine country. I thought, Dionysos is the god of wine.